Tiny Hats, Big Hearts - KMOV.com

Tiny Hats, Big Hearts

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(WALA) -

It's hard to image something so tiny, being up against enormous challenges.  Yet, one in 110 babies is born with a congenital heart defect. 

It's a problem with the structure of the heart.  Nikki McClurg is a birth nurse at Thomas Hospital in Fairhope.  She deals with babies all the time.  It was during her pregnancy that doctors told her something was wrong.  

"He was diagnosed, prenatally, on ultrasound I had," said McClurg, Thomas Hospital Registered Nurse.

McClurg's son Matthew was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.  As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form correctly.  It's a condition that affects on in 5,000 babies.   Without surgery, hypoplastic left heart syndrome is fatal, usually within the first few weeks of life.

McClurg's son has been through three open-heart surgeries, the first when he was just six days old.  

"He's had quite a lot happen in those first couple years of his life...but he's doing amazingly well now," explained McClurg.

McClurg wants other parents to know, you're not alone.  "It definitely touches my heart and I want to spread that awareness to other families who might go through the same thing."

All over the country people are doing their part to help raise awareness for congenital heart defects, by dressing up babies in tiny red hats.  Volunteers are joining Infirmary Health and the American Heart Association for the 'Little Hats, Big Hearts' program.  Infirmary Hospitals will present a little red hat to every baby born in the month of February, which is heart month.

"So when a baby is born in the month of February they will receive a little red hat and it is to show awareness for congenital heart disease which is the number one killer for babies," said Ashley Pope, Mobile Heart Walk Director.

Most born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome a generation ago died in childhood -- though medical breakthroughs since have helped some live into their 30s.

McClurg credits an early detection for the health of her son, who's now 7 years old.  "He's doing amazingly well.  He's in the first grade and one of the top readers and his class...which is really amazing...because his congenital heart defect was found prenatally...and he had the healthcare he needed...and it was caught early...I think that's why he's done as well as he has," said McClurg.

There's no known way to prevent hypoplastic left heart syndrome.  If you have a family history of heart defects, or if you already have a child with a congenital heart defect, before getting pregnant consider talking with a genetic counselor and a cardiologist experienced in congenital heart defects.

Even though it's March, hats are already being made for 2019.  If you're a knitter, or crocheter with some time to spare for a good cause, the American Heart Association and Infirmary Health are always looking for help.

Want to hep, click on Little Hats, Big Hearts to learn more about volunteer information. 

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