Today in 1909, the birthday of Dr. Virginia Apgar, who created a short but important test to make sure a newborn baby is getting off to a good start.

Apgar was born in New Jersey.

Even as a young kid, she wanted to be a doctor.

Her teachers and professors marveled at her energy, her drive and the way she could absorb seemingly an entire subject.

She originally wanted to be a surgeon, but the chair of surgery where she was a resident said the prospects weren’t strong for women surgeons at the time.

He suggested she move into the emerging field of anesthesiology.

And it was in that field that she made a huge breakthrough.

Anesthesia was, and is, a big part of many deliveries, so Apgar was on hand for thousands and thousands of births.

She saw that while the infant mortality rate in the 1950s had fallen from a half century earlier, there had been no change in the number of babies who only lived for one day.

She came up with a five point scoring system that could help providers understand how a newborn was doing and make sure they got what they needed.

It’s called the Apgar Score, and it’s not only named for its inventor, it’s an acronym.

Doctors and nurses check for Activity, Pulse, Grimace, Appearance and Respiration.

Essentially, is the new baby breathing and moving around? Is it able to cry? Does it look and act like a healthy baby should, or does anything look not quite right?

Those in the delivery room would measure the baby’s Apgar score one minute after birth and then again at five minutes.

With this simple but useful set of information, medical teams could start making better judgments about their tiny patients.

This is when you see the medical field of neonatology start to develop, along with a wide range of new monitors and devices for newborns, and the neonatal intensive care unit.

After developing the Apgar Score, Dr. Apgar worked for 15 years with the March of Dimes.

She helped even more youngsters by working to prevent and treat birth defects and encouraging childhood vaccinations.

She also pushed for more prenatal care. telling expecting parents, “Be good to your baby before it is born.”

All that work has not led to more healthy babies and a big impact around the world.

There’s a saying, in fact, that if you think about it, just about every baby who’s born is first seen through Virginia Apgar’s eyes.

We’re just days away from the National Asparagus Festival in Oceana County, Michigan, called the “Asparagus Capital of the Nation.”

There will be plenty of chances to try asparagus, as well as a parade, a 5K run, an arts & crafts fair and a pageant to choose the next Asparagus Queen.

Virginia Apgar May Have Saved Your Life (Hackaday)

National Asparagus Festival in Michigan

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Photo by ~Kristie via Flickr/Creative Commons