The Weather Channel: New England Newborn Screening lab technician describes drive on snowy roads to deliver baby’s blood specimen

November 20, 2015

Melody Rush, a lab technician in UMass Medical School’s New England Newborn Screening Program, said during an episode on The Weather Channel that she didn’t expect to feel so much fear when she ventured out in a blizzard to pick up a newborn baby’s blood sample, which helped save the infant’s life.

“The snow piles were so high the merge lanes and breakdown lanes were nonexistent,” Rush said on an episode of The Weather Channel’s “So You Think You’d Survive” series Nov. 19. “I didn’t realize yet the fear I was going to feel when merging ... My heart was pounding.” As she merged her car with oncoming traffic, Rush said she was thinking, “Please don’t hit me.”

Rush was one of several members of the newborn screening team who made the decision to take to the roads and public transportation to pick up newborn babies’ blood specimens after Winter Storm Juno dumped 2 feet of snow on Boston in late January and the regular delivery service was suspended. The team collected blood samples from 25 hospitals in Eastern Massachusetts and delivered them to the laboratory in Jamaica Plain for screening. One of the samples Rush picked up belonged to Juliana Salvi, who was born with a disorder that prevents her body from metabolizing galactose, a sugar found in milk and milk-based formulas. The disorder can result in permanent brain damage or death if it is not detected soon after a baby is born.

“I knew that we needed to get those babies’ samples out,” Rush said. “There’s always a sense of urgency.”

Rush said the area had been hit by snow nearly every weekend.

“We just were slammed with so many snowstorms,” she said. “We ran out of places to put the snow.”

Despite the terrible driving conditions, Rush was grateful she was able to help Juliana and her parents, Charlene and Mike Salvi.

“It was a wonderful feeling,” Rush said of helping save Juliana’s life. “I’ve never met anyone directly that I’ve had a hand in helping.”

The story of the heroic efforts of the newborn screening team became popular on Twitter, as shown in this Storify.  

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