Group spreads awareness about congenital heart birth defects

(KLTV) - It's a little hat that is made with a big heart. A group of East Texas women are doing what they can to help bring awareness to the No. 1 killer of Americans, heart disease. Among babies, congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect in the country.

Whether you knit, crochet or use the loom, these ladies at the Shiloh Road Church of Christ come together with a mission in mind. their efforts are part of a fairly new campaign in conjunction with the American Heart Association and the Children's Heart Foundation to collect little red hats.

"I just want new parents to be aware of the heart defects in these newborns because as soon as they can get help. That's what it's all about. We want them to be healthy," Bonnie Popcocke said.

The group Sisters in Service started making the red hats in March 2016 and so far have made more than 320. The little red hats will be delivered in February during American Heart Association Month to the maternity wards at ETMC and Christus Trinity Mother Frances.

"Congenital heart disease affects 1 in 100 babies. About 25 percent are considered the complicated disease and ends up needing surgeries," ETMC Cardiothoracic Surgeon Andrea Cooley said.

Cooley did an advanced fellowship at Childrens Medical Center in Dallas dealing with congenital heart disease in babies. Cooley has seen first hand the critical role of prenatal care and screenings. The youngest patient with a heart problem she has worked on was only 16 minutes old.

"Luckily, the patient's mom had screening so they knew this was coming. So we could have the day of the c-section, the time and the entire OR team ready as soon as that baby was delivered. So we were able to save that baby," Cooley said.

The hats made with love are all different patterns with some made for larger babies down to the little preemies. The Sisters in Service hope this serves as small reminder that heart disease affects our little ones too. A small way to make a big impact in the fight against heart disease.

Little Hats, Big Hearts began in Chicago in 2014. Thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country, Little Hats, Big Hearts is now in 39 states — and counting.