The big day of love, Feb. 14, isn’t just reserved for romantic antics.
For babies in Adventist Health Bakersfield's neonatal intensive care unit, Valentine's Day came in the form of knitted caps smaller than a Valentine's Day card.
Red, one-of-a-kind hats were placed on these sleeping babies for a cause larger than keeping their noggins warm — heart health awareness. The hat giving is a partnership program between Adventist Health and the American Heart Association introduced last year at the hospital, Little Hats, Big Hearts.
"Heart health starts on day one," said Teresa Adamo, the marketing manager of Adventist Health Bakersfield.
Babies born on Feb. 14 aren't the only ones to receive the stylish, crocheted garb, but all babies born in the month of February at Adventist Health Bakersfield will. A plethora of community organizations, churches and grandmothers have banded together since December to donate a whopping 2,000 hats.
Hat donations have continued to peter in, leaving Adventist Health Bakersfield with a surplus as it expects to need only 300 hats.
The community in Bakersfield is so generous, Kelly Zielsdorf, manager and registered nurse of the NICU, said. The remainder of the hats will be donated to other Southern California Adventist Health hospitals.
And they're all custom-made — some have bows and embellishments, while others resemble baseball caps and berets. There's a variety of sizes, as babies' heads aren't all the same.
Awareness for heart health isn't just for those at risk of heart disease, which is not only those over 50.
"There are babies that are born with heart struggles and we're here to promote heart health awareness," said Michelle Lawrence, manager of the NICU at Adventist Health Bakersfield.
Congenital heart defects, or heart defects that exist since birth, can effect various parts of the heart such as the aorta, arteries, ventricles and pulmonary valves. Out of 1,000 births, at least eight babies will have some form of congenital heart disorder, most of which are mild, according to the American Heart Association's website. Adventist Health Bakersfield said in a news release that congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the country.
But anyone with congenital heart defects can live a normal life into adulthood, according to the American Heart Association.
Zielsdorf said one of the best parts of her job is helping nurture babies in the NICU until they're healthy enough to go home with their parents.
"It's the best getting to see them on graduation day," she said.
Hats promoting heart health aren't the only handmade items for patients at Adventist Health Bakersfield. Other ways the community helps the hospital through textile prowess are isolate covers for NICU babies' machines, knitted breast knockers for those who have prosthetic breasts and old wedding dresses are donated for angel babies or babies that have died after or during birth.