Little Hats, Big Hearts: Every baby born at Aurora in February receives a cap and heart defect screening

Timothy Clark

WEST ALLIS -- Seven hours after the birth of his first child, Timothy Clark was still beaming Thursday, Feb. 1. The little red hat atop Alex Marie’s little head was a sign that her young life will continue to be great.

“Within a moment, your whole life changed," Clark said with a smile. "Your priorities and everything changed to -- first, somebody else. It’s great. It’s great."

“What this program does is really bring awareness to the number one killer of women, being heart disease, and the number one birth defect in all newborns, being congenital heart defects," said Dawn Terpstra, an RN at the Aurora West Allis Women's Pavilion.

February is American Heart Month, and for the third year in a row, Aurora is participating in Little Hats, Big Hearts. Every baby born at an Aurora facility in February, including the almost 400  at the Women’s Pavilion, will get a red cap -- knitted or crocheted by volunteers -- after going through a congenital heart defect screening.

“We never found this out until our teenagers were falling over on basketball courts and football fields. Now we can test for a baby’s heart to make sure it’s safe before you go home," said Terpstra.

It’s a concern that hits home for Clark, and not just because he’s a new father.

“One of my friends actually passed away with heart disease playing basketball a couple years back in our 20s. He was just playing basketball, just passed out on the court. Ended up dying later that night," said Clark.

The screening for babies has only been around for a few years. It’s a non-invasive test that makes sure oxygen is flowing properly into and out of a newborn’s heart.

“If anything is found, we will be able to treat them right away. 80 percent of them do heal on their own without any intervention whatsoever, but it's good to know and find it before -- sooner than later," Terpstra said.

“Knowing someone that passed away from the disease and knowing that my daughter will be OK, that’s a great lift off my shoulders," Clark stated.

It’s one less thing for a new parent to lose sleep over.