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Schumer, Kelly Unveil Plan for Newborn Testing

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – The testing of newborns for a variety of diseases is at the heart of a four-point plan unveiled Monday by US Senator Charles Schumer and former Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jim Kelly.

Medical experts say early detection in newborns is key to treating diseases. Kelly says if his son, Hunter, had been tested for Krabbe's Disease at birth, doctors might have been able to successfully treat it.

Hunter, now 7, is unable to walk or talk. He's under constant medical care. And just Monday, he was taken to Women and Children's Hospital to fix a problem with his feeding tube.

While little can be done to help Hunter, other than to keep him comfortable, Kelly said his mission in life is to make a difference in other kids' lives.

"When my son was first diagnosed in 1997, I wanted to crawl into my own hole. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I was ticked off at the whole world," Kelly said. "But my wife Jill, God bless her, told me that if there was ever a time for me to use his name, it was then. It took me a little while to realize that she was right."

And that's why Kelly joined Senator Schumer Monday at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus yesterday. Schumer said the four-point screening plan he and Kelly unveiled will impact millions of children nationwide.

"Our goal is to devote more federal money for the testing of newborns and to increase awareness among parents of the necessity and availability of those tests," Schumer said. "Then, if parents order the tests, we need to help them and their states with what should be done next."

Specifically, Schumer said his plan would provide $25 million to states for programs that encourage screening.

Right now, the amount of testing varies widely from state to state. New York tests newborns for 12 diseases while Hawaii tests for 48.