By Marcy SanchezFebruary 9, 2018
The month of February is well known for its symbolic roses, greeting cards and heart-shaped gifts celebrating romance so it's not far-fetched for the month to also raise awareness of America's leading cause of death; heart disease.
Throughout the month various organizations bring to light statistics, percentages and consequences of heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while heart disease affects nearly 30 million Americans, heart defects affect nearly one in every 100 births.
To promote awareness and educate about Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs), Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week is held each Feb. 7- 14. This year, William Beaumont Army Medical Center is increasing awareness of CHDs is providing over 130 hand-knitted little red hats to each newborn during the month of February as part of a nationwide initiative aimed at empowering moms to live heart-healthy lives and encouraging children to do the same.
"We're raising awareness of congenital heart defects and heart disease because February is American Heart Month," said Capt. Marimon Maskell, head nurse, Mother-Baby Unit, WBAMC. "(Patients) have been enjoying it so far. They're asking more questions about (heart disease) and we've been explaining tests we run to help test for heart defects."
While some heart diseases are developed over time, CHDs are heart abnormalities present at birth affecting various parts of the heart. According to the CDC, an estimated 2 million American children and adults live with CHDs today.
Early detection of CHDs include prenatal exams such as ultrasounds and newborn screenings which include pulse oximetry tests.
"WBAMC performs an ultrasound to ensure the heart is developing properly, there's four chambers, blood is passing through appropriately, all this can hopefully identify any issues early on," said Maskell, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii. "We also screen during the prenatal process checking both mom and dad to check if they have any heart history or any issues."
Over 100 babies are delivered each month at WBAMC, which is on its way to being accredited as a Baby-Friendly Hospital for its progressive breastfeeding policies, education and efforts at the hospital. While the hospital does provide level II neonatal care, care for stable or moderately ill infants, patients with CHDs are referred to specialized doctors outside the facility.
"We mainly take care of low risk patients, if we identify patients with issues such as these we typically refer them during their prenatal course so specialized doctors can run the more invasive tests during their pregnancy," said Maskell.
First-time mom Kayla Simons, a Fort Bliss military spouse, gained some insight to the initiative after her son, Hunter, was presented with a little red hat after his birthdate on Feb. 5. During her prenatal care, Simons was concerned after doctors had detected fluid around Hunter's heart during an ultrasound, an indicator of CHD.
"They had detected a lot of fluid around his heart but after his (post-delivery) exam (the doctor) said he was fine," said Simons.
Simons, who received all her prenatal care at WBAMC, says she appreciated WBAMC's efforts during her pregnancy to ensure her that Hunter would be healthy during pregnancy and after birth.
Throughout her pregnancy Simons says she would take extra precautions to ensure her baby was safe and in good health.
"Little things like making sure it wasn't too hot before getting in the shower or making sure my belly wasn't on the range while cooking, so I would cook sideways so he wouldn't get hot," said Simons. "I just wanted to make sure he was okay."