Raising heart defect awareness with babies' hats

Posted at 4:03 PM, Feb 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-02 20:16:09-05

Volunteers for the American Heart Association, Denver, went to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children Tuesday to raise awareness for congenital heart disease.

The group collect 5,000 hand-knit red hats to give out to every child born in some area hospitals in the month of February, which is Heart Month. In the United States, One percent of children born have some sort of heart defect and 25 percent of those babies have to have open heart surgery within the first year of life.

"We hope to make an even better and lasting impact on this disease and its natural course," said Samuel Brescia, M.D., Rocky Mountain Pediatric Cardiology.

Joining the volunteers was a survivor of a congenital heart defect. Sofia Montoya,16, was born with Holt-Oram syndrome. Her heart is in the opposite side of her chest and she had a series of other problems requiring surgery at a young age.

"I had my first surgery on my stomach when I was 2 days old and I had open heart surgery when I was five months old," Montoya said. 

The high school junior has become a spokesperson of sorts for the American Heart Association. She speaks with new parents whose kids have a heart defect, such as Britteny Toth. Toth had her young girl, Ellie Mae, in August, 2015. Ellie Mae was born missing a wall in her heart and just underwent open heart surgery on Friday.

"Knowing that she was going to need to have surgery to repair it was really scary for us," Toth said. "It was a really long surgery. We've been here since then."

Montoya visited Ellie Mae in the hospital and brought her a red hat. Toth says seeing a heart defect survivor at Montoya's age makes her hopeful for her own daughter's health.

"I hope that I can be there for anyone who might be going through this," Montoya said. "I hope they can see me, maybe as inspiration and that everything will be OK."