Handmade baby caps raising awareness for congenital heart defects

DENVER - One woman's new hobby is helping the families of infants born prematurely during what can be their darkest time.

When Pauline Obrien stopped working, she decided to start knitting.

"It's very easy and it's very soothing," Obrien says.

Hats. In particular, hats for the American Heart Association program Little Hats, Big Hearts.

"If I just sit here and watch TV, it would take me about an hour and a half to complete a hat," Obrien says.

It has turned into much more than something to pass the time.

"The more I did the happier I got. I thought this would help a lot of little newborns because I'm doing it in memory of my children.

Obrien is among an army of volunteers that is knitting the caps for the American Heart Association. The hand-made caps are given to children battling heart defects. 

It's a battle Obrien knows first hand. Three of her grandchildren were born with heart defects, and one of them, Brian, died the day after he was born.

Obrien says she thinks about Brian a lot when she knits.

"I held him in my arms when he was born," she said.

With every stitch, she imagines the little ones she's never met wearing her hats. It's estimated 8 out of every 1,000 babies is born each year with a heart defect. That's 40,000 newborns.

Each February, to raise awareness, the American Heart Association delivers thousands of the hats she and other volunteers make to babies in hospitals around the country.

Sophia Montoya made a hat delivery to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children and Presbyterian / St. Luke's Medical Center,  which for her, is extra special.

"I had to have open heart surgery when I was five months old, which lef me in the NICU for the first six months of my life, " Montoya saod.

She watched as one newborn's parents made sure her hat fit just right. At just a week old, the infant has spent all of her life so far in the NICU with a heart defect.

"This can be a day to day sort of struggle with lots of ups and downs," says new father Thaddeus Anderson.  

But a small red hat is truly warming their hearts.

"Any positive thing, any act of love, act of kindness is a good thing to get through a little portion of the battle," Anderson says.

"I hope these hats will make some family very happy," Obrien says.

Paying it forward, while gazing back.

"I wish I had them for my grandchildren," Obrien says.

With a heart of love in every stitch.

If you'd like to knit caps for "Little Hats, Big Hearts" or make a financial donation, click here

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