‘She’s my little trooper, my little hero.’

Of the 40,000 babies born each year in Canada, one per cent of them have heart defects. However, something as simple as knitted red hats makes it a little easier for the families affected.

Taylor Hollohan

The Heart and Stroke Foundation are collecting red hats throughout January for newborns with heart defects to raise awareness.

Julie Nicholas, director of government relations with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, is working with the Red Hats for Special Hearts campaign. The campaign seeks volunteers to knit and crochet red hats for newborns to raise awareness for heart defects.

“Parents that have children with a heart defect go through a lot while seeing their child struggle,” said Nicholas.

Now a warm hat for their baby is just one less thing they have to worry about.

On Jan. 11, people gathered at A.C. Hunter Library in St. John’s east end to knit and crochet red hats. The hats were given to hospitals in the province with neo-natal or obstetric units.

Krista Spearns’ daughter Carly Dohey was born with a heart defect.

Krista Spearns holds her daughter Carly Dohey at four-months-old at the hospital in 2012. The picture was taken the day after Carly’s heart surgery. Submitted photo

The doctors wanted her to be 6-8 weeks old and at least five kilograms pounds before getting open-heart surgery. But when Carly began to show signs of heart failure, she had to go into surgery as soon as possible.

Five years later, Carly is a happy kid who shows off her scars proudly.  She will be monitored yearly for the rest of her life and her family are hoping for a healthy future.

“She has a special heart,” Spearns said. “We want to raise her to be very proud of her experience.”

The campaign is volunteer based.

Librarian Jewel Cousens heard about the Red Hats for Special Hearts campaign and was quick to volunteer. She was moved by Spearns’ story.

“It was an amazing story about this five-year-old girl; she was a bundle of joy,” said Cousens.

Spearns says there is a lack of awareness with congenital heart defects, and it should be taken more seriously.

“Seeing a scar on her was very helpful, it showed me she survived it,” said Carly’s mom. “It helps me tell people that they’re not alone.”

Spearns says the journey changed her as a person and it’s brought many opportunities her way.

“She’s my little trooper, my little hero,” she said.

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