Newborns in Stony Brook are wearing red hats for American Heart Month


Across the country, newborns are styling little red hats in honor of February’s American Heart Month.

Since 2015, the American Heart Association has organized the Little Hats, Big Hearts event in an effort to raise awareness for good cardiac health.

“People aren’t mindful of the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of women and men,” said AHA’s director of community health, Michele Gervat. “80 percent [of heart defects] are modifiable; that’s huge.”

And now Stony Brook Hospital, which has screened for heart defects during pregnancies since 2010, is joining in on the initiative.

“We basically promote cardiovascular health in the young on a regular basis and [American Heart Month] gives us the opportunity to do that,” said Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s chief of pediatric cardiology, Dr. Laurie Panesar. 

Stony Brook Stitchers, a nonprofit group consisting of Stony Brook Hospital faculty and friends, designed some of the hats that will be given to each little bundle of joy in the hospital in February.

“Every single hat that we got in has a note that says it was was done with love,” said Gervat. “And that, to me, is amazing.”

The first recipient of a handcrafted hat was a 2-day-old boy named Spencer Cory Piazza. Spencer’s middle name is to honor his mother’s brother, who died of an undetected heart defect at the age of 14.

“After literally witnessing it firsthand, it brings a peace of mind that [Spencer was checked out],” said his mother, Amanda Young.

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Amanda Young and Vincent Piazza with their newborn baby boy, Spencer Cory.

Spencer Cory is a healthy infant, but heart defects are a possibility in newborns, says Panesar.

According to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, about .8 percent of babies born nationwide have a congenital heart defect.

That includes 6-month-year old Ryan Lukas, who was born at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

It was during pregnancy when Ryan’s mother, Denise, found out her son had a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot.

“Dr. [Kathleen Walsh’s] office was a godsend for me because I was able to prepare myself to what was to come ahead,” she said.

After multiple surgeries — with some still ahead — Denise is appreciative with the treatment she received at Stony Brook.

“Thank you to all of the doctors, surgeons, nurses, therapists and extended team members who have worked together to help Ryan to grow and get stronger every day,” she said. “Without their tireless work and compassion Ryan would not be where he is today.”

Top: (Left) Little Spencer Cory Piazza cuddle up with mom. (Right) Ryan Lukas being held in Stony Brook Hospital.  

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital faculty with American Heart Association and Stony Brook Stitchers.