Elmhurst Hospital effort promotes warm heads, healthy hearts for newborns

Family Birthing Center participating in Little Hats Big Hearts campaign this month

Cayden Willaby, then just three hours old, gets a red knit hat put on Feb. 13 as part of the Little Hats. Big Hearts program at Elmhurst Hospital's Family Birthing Center. (Elmhurst Titan video by Dave Lemery)

ELMHURST – Cayden Willaby, just three hours old, didn’t stir in the slightest as an Elmhurst Hospital nurse carefully placed a red knit hat on his head.

His patience was particularly impressive given that the first attempt to put a hat on proved unworkable when the first one was too small even for his newborn noggin. Fortunately, there were plenty of sizes to choose from.

Cayden Willaby relaxes after getting his red hat.

Cayden, of course, had no idea that the red color of the hat was designed to help raise awareness of congenital heart defects. But his mother, Shana Williams, knew it, and that was the important thing.

The Family Birthing Center at Elmhurst Hospital, working with the American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation, is taking part this month in the Little Hats, Big Hearts awareness campaign. Volunteers across the country, including some in the Elmhurst area, are knitting hats specifically for newborns to be given out in hospital maternity wards as part of American Heart Month.

At Elmhurst Hospital’s birthing center, the hats also come with educational materials so parents can understand how congenital heart defects are detected and treated.

“There’s not very many signs in newborns,” said Heather Rodriguez, assistant manager of family birthing center. “Sometimes a baby will have some respiratory distress, or a real irregular heartbeat. The way we actually test for it is to place an oxygen sensor on the hand, and one on the foot, and do measurements and see how those two correlate together. If there’s a big difference – let’s say the hand is 100 percent, and the foot is 90 percent, that’s a big difference.”

As an added bonus, the hats help keep the temperature-sensitive newborns warm during their early days, Rodriguez said.

Newborn Charlotte Trevino enjoys a nap while sporting a red hat.

Gina and John Trevino of Brookfield were all smiles Feb. 13 as their not-quite-2-day-old daughter, Charlotte, received her red knit cap.

“We like to have a lot of fun with it” Rodriguez said. “We like distributing hats and raising awareness.”

Anyone interested in knitting a red hat for a newborn can find information at the Little Hats, Big Hearts campaign website.