During the month of February, every baby born at Bayhealth will receive a handmade red hat in recognition of Heart Month. The Little Hats Big Hearts program is designed to bring awareness to the growing dangers of heart disease.
Overall, the hospital has received 600 hats that will be given to newborns throughout the month. The project was started by Sherry Moore whose grandson was born at Bayhealth Kent General in April 2014 with a congenital heart defect. Fourteen volunteers knitted 500 hats using donated yarn after Ms. Moore created a social media page after reading about the Little Hats Big Hearts project created by the American Heart Association.
“So many people volunteered to help,” Ms. Moore said. “Most of the people I don’t even know, they donated their time out of the kindness of their hearts.” In addition to the hats donated by volunteers through Ms. Moore, Eileen Bremer, a hospital volunteer, donated 50 hats while the group Twisted Stitchers donated another 50 hats.
Ms. Moore says that she hopes the donations will raise awareness of heart conditions, saying that her grandson is her inspiration for starting the project. The Little Hats Big Hearts project was started by the American Heart Association. The project is designed to raise awareness of heart disease which is the number one killer of Americans as well as congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect in the United States. The project began in Chicago with 300 hats donated in the first year. It has since expanded to 29 states.
According to the American Heart Association, a congenital heart defect is one that exists at birth. It is not a form of heart disease, but occurs when the heart or blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally before birth. The defect can range from a simple problem, such as a hole between chambers to very severe, such as complete absence of one or more chambers. Some heart defects can lead to problems in adulthood, such as pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias, infective endocarditis, anticoagulation and congestive heart failure. Out of 1,000 births, at least eight babies will have some type of congenital heart defect.
Anyone is at risk of having a child with a congenital heart defect. In most cases, causes for the defects are not known. There has been research that indicates a few genes may be linked to heart defects and the use of some drugs during pregnancy may also lead to some types of defects, but in most cases there is no known cause. Some defects are discovered soon after birth, while others may not be found until the child is older. In the case of a minor defect, children live normal lives, although some may have difficulty with strenuous exercise. Complex defects, however, may require limitations for the child as they get older and some can cause developmental delays or other learning difficulties.
In addition to drawing attention to congenital birth defects, the Little Hats Big Hearts program also draws attention to the growing incidence of heart disease in the United States. In 2011, 787,000 people died of cardiovascular disease, making it the number one killer in the United States. Cardiovascular disease claims more lives each year than all forms of cancer. In women, heart disease is more deadly than men with one in three dying each year. However, only 20 percent of women in America believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat, even though 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors. In addition, symptoms of heart disease can be different in men than women, so the symptoms are often ignored or misunderstood.
Volunteers who wish to donate knitted hats for the Little Hats Big Hearts project can contact Bayhealth Volunteer Services at 302-744-7153.