FOX 32 NEWS - Most people know February is Heart Month. But did you know it's also Congenital Heart Disease Month?
The American Heart Association is raising awareness about it by putting little red crocheted hats on newborns.
Baby Emily Cepkauskas recently celebrated her one year birthday. It has been a tough year for mother Laurie and the family. Emily was born with a congenital heart defect. She has a hole in her heart.
"On May 16th she went in for open heart surgery and after many failed attempts of recovery, she received a second open heart surgery on July 11th and it was successful,” mother Laurie said.
Emily’s condition is not that rare. It’s estimated 1 in 100 babies in the U.S. are born every year with some sort of heart defect. Dr. Andrew Vanbergan is a pediatric critical care physician. He says congenital heart defects, or CHD, are the most common form of birth defects in children.
"These children come into our lives so that we can help them and hopefully rechange and shape their life so they can have a fruitful productive life in their future."
The American Heart Association is trying to raise awareness about CHD’s. That's why it started the ‘Little Hats, Big Hearts’ program four years ago. Volunteers have donated thousands of red crocheted hats for newborns at area hospitals, including Advocate Children's. The goal is to get people to ask questions.
"So starting today and the rest of the month, families are going to be provided red hats to be put on their children in solidarity and awareness for CHD"
As part of the program, parents are being encouraged to post pictures of their babies and share their stories.
"Now that the stories are shared here, there could be increased awareness and support and hopefully down the road increase funding so we can try to make changes."
Laurie knows how important it is to raise awareness. She’s hoping more attention to this problem will help not only her daughter, Emily, but other babies born with similar problems in the future.
"She's doing okay today. She has a long road ahead of her more heart surgeries and lung issues, but she's very loved and very strong."
The American Heart Association is distributing 6000 hats in Chicagoland for the "Little Hats, Big Hearts" campaign.
Two-thousand hats will go to newborns across the Advocate Health Care System.