By Megan Tieman
I could have really used one of these hats when I was born and weighed less than 500 grams — about one pound. When people ask me why I crocheted 25 teeny tiny red hats for the American Heart Association, I tell them that I was born six weeks premature in 1980, which was really preemie for the technology of the day. At less than 1 day old, a cardiac surgeon rushed in off the golf course, pulled on surgical scrubs, and performed a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) procedure. The PDA is an opening between two blood vessels leading from the heart, and it is bad news for newborns. Fewer than 200,000 cases occur in the U.S. each year.
I spent about six weeks in a children’s hospital in California, coming up to weight where it was safe to send me home. My dad tells the story that when I could finally come home, there was no such thing as preemie clothing, and he bought me doll pajamas from a local toy store so I would have some clothes.
Today, I have only small reminders of my premature birth: some scarring from the surgery and instillation of IV’s on fragile skin, and 10 years of monitoring to ensure that I had not contracted HIV/AIDS from blood transfusions before they knew the risks (I hadn’t been infected).
A lot has changed in medical technology, but the need for teeny tiny hats remain. And so is the need for hope. Parents must be in agony over the struggles of their fragile baby, and I can attest that there is hope for a normal life. I can provide a baby just like I was with a little warmth when they need it. It was my pleasure to pay it forward through the Little Hats, Big Hearts program. These sweet babies and their parents have my very warmest wishes for a long, happy and healthy life!