07/25/11 — Group makes hats for premature babies at Pitt

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Group makes hats for premature babies at Pitt

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on July 25, 2011 1:46 PM

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Betty Evans, left, and Jewel Grantham, Town and Country ECA Club members sort through the many preemie hats that club members and women at the Senior Center have made for the neonatal unit at Pitt Memorial Hospital.

Janice Hill sat with her yarn and needle and began to crochet a hat -- not for herself, a loved one or even a friend, but a tiny cap for one of the premature babies fighting for its life at Pitt Memorial Hospital's neonatal unit.

Ms. Hill said that as she works she imagines the baby whose head it will cover and how much it will help that new little life.

She is just one of the women crocheting such caps for the preemies struggling for their lives.

The crocheting project is a joint venture between Town and Country Extension and Community Association Club and the crocheting group at the Wayne County Senior Center.

The idea for the project came about a few months ago when Town and Country Club member Trellis Phillips saw a neighbor making the hats.

"She would make 60 by herself each Thanksgiving and Christmas and give them to the neonatal unit," Mrs. Phillips said. "She suggested that this would be a good project for our club to do."

Another club member, Betty Evans, asked her friend and fellow churchgoer Ms. Hill, who enjoys crocheting and also belongs to the group at the Senior Center, if her group would like to help. Ms. Hill immediately said, "Yes."

"We chose the project because there was a need," Mrs. Phillips said. "They don't have that many people volunteering to donate them, so we decided we would."

And the neonatal unit can use as many of the preemie hats as the club and women at the Senior Center can make, said Rhonda Creech, a nurse manager at Pitt's neonatal unit.

"Volunteer services is the only way we get the crocheted hats," she said. "The ladies from Goldsboro, as well as a few others, make them for us."

Ms. Creech said that with all the new sophisticated equipment the neonatal unit has, parents are now giving birth to babies who would possibly have died at, or shortly after, birth.

"The parents are in the grieving process," Ms. Creech said. "They are grieving because they didn't give birth to a normal baby. These hats help give some sort of normalcy to the babies and also keep them warm."

The premature babies are kept in incubators, or isolettes, that allow nurses to monitor their temperatures and keep the heat at an appropriate range for the tiny newborns.

"Because we lose a lot of heat through out heads, the hats help keep the heat in their bodies," Ms. Creech said. "And the isolettes don't have to work so hard, either."

But even more important is the fact that the hats give the preemies a more normal appearance while they are in the isolettes with tubes and gadgets sticking out here and there.

"The parents tell us that it makes them feel good that their baby can wear the tiny crocheted hat when they can't wear a regular size one," Ms. Creech said. "When the preemies outgrow the hat, we give them a regular size one and give that first hat to the parents. It's a nice memento for them to have."

Ms. Creech said the neonatal unit deeply appreciates the women crocheting the preemie hats. She said the unit has 50 isolettes and many premature babies during the year.

"It's good for us to be able to do something nice for the family and the new mothers and give them a sense of accomplishment, even when their baby is really sick," she said.

That's how the women who make the hats feel, too.

"It's a wonderful thing to be able to help a little infant, a brand new life. It keeps their little heads warm. The preemies need a nice little warm cap," Mrs. Phillips said.

She says she can crochet one of the small hats in just a few hours.

"Once you get the hang of it, it's pretty simple," she said. "Once you get your pattern established, it's not hard."

Ms. Hill doesn't crochet as fast as some of the other women, so it usually takes her about six hours to make a hat.

"I just love making the hats for the preemies," she said. "I sit there crocheting a baby's hat and I just imagine the little baby and what it will do for it."

The hats are made in various colors: blue, yellow, white, lavender. The club could use donations of yarn to make the hats, but it has to be yarn that's soft enough for a baby's head.

Rochelle Page said it gives her a warm feeling to be making a hat.

"When I'm crocheting the hats, I'm thinking that I'm helping somebody less fortunate than myself. And I have a good, fulfilling feeling that I'm doing this for someone who could really use it."