Newborns sport red for heart awareness

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 25, 2015

 Kylia Perryman, of Redford, holds her newborn, Baylee Boykins.

Kylia Perryman, of Redford, holds her newborn, Baylee Boykins.

Photo courtesy of Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Throughout February, babies born at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital are wearing hand-knit red caps to raise awareness for congenital heart defects.

February is American Heart Month, and congental heart defects affect about one out of 100 babies born, according to the American Heart Association. Congenital heart defects, or CHDs, are the most common birth defects, and it is estimated that 40,000 newborns are born with CHDs per year in the U.S. and more than 1,700 in Michigan.

The hand-knit red caps were made by American Heart Association volunteers. This is the first time Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital has taken on this type of campaign for CHDs awareness.

Volunteers knitted more than 8,000 hats and distributed them to hospitals around Michigan. The Detroit Medical Center in Detroit also received the red caps for infants in the metro Detroit area, according to Melissa Thrasher, communications director for the American Heart Association in the midwest.

The hats distributed by the American Heart Association are part of the “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign, Thrasher said in an email. The campaign is designed to raise awareness about heart disease, including its effects on children.

“We’re thrilled with the outpouring of support from volunteers,” Thrasher said in an email. “The tremendous response will provide newborns at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and other hospitals around the state with hats and a reminder that congenital heart disease impacts the whole family.”

CHDs can be detected through an ultrasound while the mother is pregnant; however, because some women receive late prenatal care, CHDs are not always detected early on, according to Dr. Brent Davidson, service chief of Women’s Health Services at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital. Because of these factors, babies are screened for CHDs before leaving the hospital, he said.

“In Michigan alone, about five babies will be picked up statewide, where it’s really a critical thing to know beforehand to undergo intervention,” Davidson said about screening for CHDs.

Some common congenital heart defects, according to the March of Dimes, are patent ductus arteriosus, septal defects, coarctation of the aorta and heart valve abnormalities.

“When babies are born, they have a connection that stays open initially, and it closes after a few days. If there’s a heart defect, the blood will often be running in the wrong direction,” Davidson said. This is why babies are screened before the connection closes so doctors can initiate intervention, he added. 

Though the cause of some heart defects is unknown, Davidson said exposure to toxins — such as tobacco, alcohol and illegal substances — certain medications and infections can cause CHDs. Genetic conditions can also play a factor.

“I think that people can make sure babies are being screened, so those ones where it’s critical for early intervention that we don’t miss the opportunity for the baby,” Davidson said.

Early intervention, he said, can mean surgery or medications, depending on the defect. Babies who undergo surgery for CHDs can have a functional life, he said.

“There are still some that can’t be corrected, but the majority could have great outcomes,” Davidson said.

Thrasher said in an email that if a person knows their baby has a congenital heart defect, it can prepare them for medical conditions that may occur later in life.

“In addition, patient and family education is an important part of successful coping,” Thrasher said in an email about why CHDs awareness is important.

According to the March of Dimes, heart defects can affect various parts of a baby’s heart, including the septum, the heart valves, and the arteries and veins. Because heart defects can also affect the baby’s blood flow, the blood can slow down, go in the wrong direction or place, or be blocked completely.

For more information about the American Heart Association’s “Little Hats, Big Hearts” campaign and other congenital heart defect campaigns, visit www.heart.org.

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