Knitting Infant Caps to Help Save Lives
For many years Arkansas Extension Homemakers crocheted tiny caps for infants at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Many caps are small enough to fit tiny little heads no bigger than a tennis ball. Little did they know then that the model for these caps would be the object of a $2.5 million funded research project that would be utilized on premature babies around the world, coming full-circle back to Arkansas. Photo above, dated around 2009, shows AEHC Joyce Hall presenting a bundle of caps to Dr. Jeffrey Kaiser.
Read what Dr. Kaiser said in a letter to Betty F. Oliver, AEHC Volunteer Coordinator, in 2012:
“I have been a neonatologist and researcher at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Arkansas Children’s Hospital since 1997. Early on in my National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) funded research, I had quite a difficult challenge of safely and accurately measuring brain blood flow in very premature infants. I used a pencil-sized ultrasound transducer that was taped to the temples of babies as small as 1 to 2 pounds. Sometimes it took up to 20 pieces of tape to secure the transducer. This was problematic because premature infants’ skin is very fragile, and tape could pull off their skin. This just would not do. Then, one of my Research Assistants scoured the UAMS Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and found a crocheted hat in a baggie, with a label saying that it was donated by the Arkansas Extension Homemakers. The Research Assistant placed the hat on one of our larger study infants, and realized that this cap could hold the transducer in perfect position, without the need for tape! The caps could hold the transducer in place for hours, allowing me to gather important information about why some premature infants have bleeding in their brains.
“I realized that the Arkansas Extension Homemakers’ caps would be perfect to make my $2.5 million research work. At this point, I knew nothing about the Arkansas Extension Homemakers. I contacted you and met with several ladies to discuss my research study. Within a month, I was given over 100 crocheted caps small enough to snugly fit on the heads of the premature infants! I was presented hundreds more at yearly AEHC conferences. The caps are colorful and the study infants’ parents love them. We always give the parents the caps after the search study is over—a beautiful memento of their stay in the UAMS NICU. When describing my research study in medical journals, I always acknowledge the Arkansas Extension Homemakers service. I have since secured more NIH funding and have learned a lot more about brain blood flow in premature infants, and ways to prevent preemies from bleeding in their brains. The success of my research is clearly due to the lovely crocheted hats made by ladies of the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council!
Thank you always for your kind support,
Jeffrey R. Kaiser, MD, MA
Note: Arkansas Extension Homemakers continue to make and donate hundreds of caps to ACH and UAMS each year. Dr. Kaiser is currently head of Neonatology, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital.