Healthwatch 16: Little Hats, Big Hearts

MAHONING TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- Little Hats, Big Hearts is a nationwide campaign that was started by the American Heart Association five years ago.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of newborn babies get a new red hat, and their moms, dads, and other family members get an education about congenital heart defects.

Mom Maria Javier of Montoursville was kind enough to invite us into her room and introduce us to her first baby, and the first grandchild on both sides of the family.

"This is Alelie Ann. She was just born February 18, 7 pounds, 1 ounce, 20 inches long, and she shares the same birthday as her father!" Maria said.

Coincidental, maybe taking a look at her hat that the name Alelie has a special meaning.

"It's Filipino for flower."

Alelie is one of 150 babies at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville to get a red hat during the Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign.

Nursing education administrative assistant Jeran Anspach is the coordinator.

"One in every 110 babies is born with a heart defect, so it's just a fun way to raise awareness with the symbol of a red hat," said Anspach.

Anspach says all year long, knitters send her hats, red yarn, and money to buy knitting supplies.

"They donate from anywhere and everywhere. Any crafter who wants to donate can donate to the program."

She herself has been crocheting for three years. The hat she gave to Baby Alelie she made herself.

"When everybody goes to bed, I sit down, and I can crank one out in, like, an hour."

Most importantly, she says the effort is a charming way to raise awareness of heart defects in infants. A congenital heart defect results when the heart, or blood vessels near it, don't develop normally before birth.

Some cases can be serious, but other defects resolve themselves after a few years.

That is what happened to Jeran.

"I was actually born with a heart murmur, so I am one of those 110 babies!"

Little Hats, Big Hearts was represented in hospitals all over the country this year.

The American Heart Association says hospitals in more than 40 states participated.

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