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The Bolivian Women Knitting Heart Plugs for Kids With Heart Defects

They’re saving lives with their knitting needles.

Screencap from the BBC video.

If only I knew knitting could be a gateway into the medical career my parents always wanted for me, I’d have taken my after-school knitting club more seriously. In Bolivia, highly skilled knitters have been enlisted to knit heart plugs for kids with holes in their hearts. At a clinic in La Paz, the women sit in a clean medical room and knit tiny, delicate occluders—medical devices for people who suffer from the congenital heart defect known as patent ductus arteriosis. These nimble-fingered women knit the occluders in under two hours with a single metal strand made of an alloy called nitinol.

"We are very happy, we are doing something for someone so they can live," said knitter Daniela Mendoza to the BBC.

The knitters create plugs that are too small to be manufactured on a mass scale, specialized for young children. Although everyone is born with a hole in their heart, it is expected to close up shortly after birth. For people who live in high altitudes like La Paz, however, the hole in their heart may persist through their early years. According to the BBC, people born in La Paz are ten times more likely to have patent dictus arteriosis, which means they suffer from constant fatigue and have trouble gaining weight. Now, children can find a cheap and simple solution in the hands of Bolivia’s knitters.

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