The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association (AHA) has teamed up with three Maine hospitals – Maine Medical Center, Central Maine Medical Center and Eastern Maine Medical Center – for the “Little Hats, Big Hearts” program. This initiative will provide approximately 500 newborns with a hand-made, red infant cap during February, which is American Heart Month. The purpose is to celebrate heart health while raising awareness of congenital heart defects (CHD), the most common type of birth defect in the country.
In addition to the hand-made hat, new parents will receive information about CHDs and the AHA’s Support Network for families affected by heart disease and stroke. CHDs are structural problems with the heart present at birth. They result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception and often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. Defects range in severity from simple problems, such as “holes” between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves.
The AHA put a call out to knitting and crocheting enthusiasts in December and the little red hats came pouring in from across the state. The initial goal of 500 hats was well surpassed, with the AHA receiving nearly 600 hats and counting. Extra hats will be used in 2018, when the AHA plans to expand this program to several more Maine hospitals.
“It was quite overwhelming to open the giant boxes of hand-knitted red hats, and read some of the notes sent with the donations. Some people were donating hats in memory of a child lost to congenital heart disease while some knitted red hats were donated to honor a child whose life was saved because of funded research or surgical advances,” said Douglas Sawyer, M.D., chief of cardiac care for Maine Medical Center and MaineHealth. “We are so grateful for everyone’s generosity and support to help raise awareness for this important issue.”
The American Heart Association is committed to raising awareness for CHD, and helping children live stronger lives through education, research and public policies. In fact, the organization’s funding for pediatric cardiac research is second only to the federal government’s.
Thanks to efforts of the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association, Maine law requires hospitals and other birthing facilities to administer a pulse oximetry test to each baby 24 hours after birth, which can help identify heart defects. The American Heart Association also creates guidelines and trains parents, caregivers and medical professionals on CPR specifically for infants and children.