Reason for Hope for Those Who Face a Congential Heart Defect

By: American Heart Association Last Updated: March 21, 2016

big-hearts-little-hats-2016Each year approximately 40,000 babies are born in the United States with a congenital heart defect. Thousands of them will not reach their first birthday and thousands more die before they reach adulthood. There is reason for hope through continued research and awareness.

The tiniest patients at hospitals in Lake and Porter County received hand-made red hats during the month of February as part of the American Heart Association’s “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign.

“This is the inaugural year for Northwest Indiana’s Little Hats Big Hearts campaign and it has been a huge success,” said Erin Crawford, American Heart Association Heart Walk Director.

Little Hats, Big Hearts currently serves 39 states and continues to grow. The program raises awareness of heart disease, the No. 1 killer of Americans, and congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect in the country. Each hat is laundered and individually packaged with information on heart disease.

“Locally we collected nearly 1,000 hats and were able to distribute 100 hats to every hospital in Lake and Porter County,” said Crawford “The outpouring of generosity from local volunteers who knitted hats and the enthusiasm from hospitals has been heart-warming.”

A little volunteer with a big heart helped distribute the hats to the hospitals. Balis Dabrowa-Goodwin, 2 years old of Hobart, was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth. He rocked one of the hand-made red hats while visiting the new moms and babies in hospitals throughout the region.

Balis was born with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), cardiac anomaly that refers to a combination of four related heart defects that commonly occur together. He had to have open heart surgery at just 7 months old to reroute the aorta to the heart and do a pulmonary valve repair, which ended up being a valve replacement.

“Greater understanding of congenital heart defects will continue to increase with programs like this. Children just like Balis, will get to smile and laugh tomorrow because of what this organization is doing to spread much needed awareness. It is a testament to the work of the American Heart Association, medical advancements and talented physicians that Balis is a healthy little boy today,” said Sarah Dabrowa, Balis’ mother.

Congenital Heart Defects Facts:

Red hats for next year's campaign will be accepted from August 1 through Dec. 31. Hats can be in both newborn and preemie sizes made of yarn that is red, cotton or acrylic, medium to heavy weight, and machine washable and dryable. Donations of red yarn are also accepted and can be sent directly to Erin Crawford. To learn more about the program, call 219.765.0127