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Little Hats, Big Hearts Campaign Brings Congenital Heart Defects Awareness to Families at MCM

Posted Date: 2/9/2015
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Abney family
Parents Phil and Briana Abney, of St. Louis, hold their newborn, Jack,
as he models one of the hats created for the “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign.

During the month of February, each baby born at McLaren Central Michigan will be given a special, red knit hat. These tiny red hats are being given out to bring awareness to American Heart Month and Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week, February 7-14.

The American Heart Association and Mended Little Hearts of West Michigan, a group that supports families of children with congenital heart defects, provided more than 10,000 knitted or crocheted newborn-sized baby hats as part of their “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign. Their goal was to support all birthing centers in the State of Michigan.

McLaren Central Michigan received 50 hats to give to their newborns along with information on congenital heart defects to pass along to the parents.

The goal of this program is to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke, including congenital heart issues which are the most common type of birth defect in the world. Congenital heart defects (CHD) affect 9 in 1000 newborns. Critical congenital heart diseases―those requiring surgery or catheter intervention in the first year of life―remain one of the most significant causes of infant death in the United States.

What is a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD)?
Congenital means present at birth. Heart defects can develop in the early part of pregnancy when the baby’s heart is forming.

How many babies are born with a CHD?
CHDs are the most common birth defect. Approximately 40,000 babies are born yearly in the United States with a CHD. That is about 1 in 110 babies that will be born with heart defects.

Are there different types of CHD?
There are approximately 35 different types of CHD. Some are mild, while others are severe. Many occur without any other problems. Some CHDs happen in combination with different birth defects, growth and developmental problems.

What causes a CHD?
The cause of many heart defects is still unknown. Factors like maternal health conditions, maternal infections, exposure to toxins like tobacco and alcohol, certain medications, and some genetic conditions can also contribute to CHD.

How is CHD treated?
Most heart defects can be corrected or helped with surgery, medicine or other interventions. Advancement in medicine and in the treatment of heart defects have enabled half a million US children with heart defects to survive into adulthood.

How are newborns screened for CHD?
Pulse oximetry is a first step in screening infants for CHD at around 24-hours of age. This noninvasive and painless test has the potential to find some of the most critical heart defects in newborns by giving a measurement of the oxygen level in the blood, or percent oxygen saturation. The test is completed by placing a small sensor on the infant’s right hand and one foot, comparing the levels which should be at 95% or greater. This screening is completed on every baby born at McLaren Central Michigan.

June Schlafley  June Schlafley in red hat
June Schlafley, of Mt. Pleasant, being screened for CHD where her oxygen levels are being measured, and then posing with one of the hats.

To learn more about CHD from the American Heart Association visit