Children come in all shapes and sizes, and they require very specialized care. From the tiniest blood pressure cuff to the largest hospital gown, everything at the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia is designed exclusively for children.

The hospital was affectionately known for many years as the “CMC,” which was short for MCG Children’s Medical Center, its original name when it opened in 1998. The hospital was funded in part through a $40 million allocation from the Georgia General Assembly.

Creating a hospital that was “just what the doctor ordered” had been done repeatedly. But building a hospital that incorporates the wishes of patients and families is what Patient- and Family-Centered Care is all about. PFCC was pioneered in Augusta, and the children’s hospital was one of the first big projects to include patients and families.

Children and their parents were at the table during the planning process. Kids chose the dinosaur and technology themes and selected paint colors for the walls. They even performed taste-testing on the food that would be served.

After talking with parents, the Children’s Hospital designed very large rooms where mom and dad can bunk in on the couch and trundle bed. In addition, parents suggested that the hospital do away with visiting hours. That’s why you can visit or stay with a patient 24/7 at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. There are no visiting hours.

Over the past two decades, thousands of children and families have trusted the Children’s Hospital during some of the most challenging times of their lives. Children are surviving traumatic injuries, chronic conditions, rare diseases, cancer, heart defects and a myriad of other life-threatening circumstances, thanks to the expert care and cutting-edge research found only at Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

Much has changed in 20 years, but one thing remains – a passion and commitment to meeting the unique health care needs of children.

Happy 20th Birthday! Together, we have much to celebrate!

20 Reasons to Choose Children’s Hospital of Georgia

1. Ranked nation’s best in pediatric quality and safety repeatedly.

2. Area’s only Level IV – highest level – NICU

3. Area’s only Level 1 – highest level – PICU

4. Area’s only separate 16-bed children’s ER with pediatric trauma capabilities

5. Developed Georgia’s first ECMO program, earning six international excellence awards

6. Full range of pediatric surgery, cardiology, oncology, neurology, family and emergency medicine programs and services provided by specialists recognized by prestigious organizations such as Best Doctors and America’s Top Doctors

7. Region’s only hybrid pediatric heart catheterization suite and only pediatric heart surgeons

8. Provides couplet care – mom and baby cared for under one roof inside the Children’s Hospital

9. Complete and unique pediatric imaging suite with ambient lighting, sound and a simulated toy scanner to help explain MRI and other radiology procedures to children

10. Telemedicine program providing expertise in rural communities via virtual appointments

11. Ground and air transportation for patients in 159 Georgia counties and neighboring states

12. Largest team of local child life specialists to explain care and put patients and families at ease

13. Visits from Nugget, a full-time therapy dog, who works exclusively for Children’s Hospital

14. Entertainment by Roary, a dedicated Chief Fun Officer and Children’s Hospital mascot

15. Interpreter services for families in virtually every language

16. Medical research and training programs for pediatric specialists

17. Dedicated children’s chapel and full-time chaplains

18. Huge indoor playground for patients and siblings, as well as two smaller inpatient playrooms

19. Directly connected to AU Medical Center, Georgia’s only public academic health center

20. Only local hospital with onsite Ronald McDonald House: home-away-from-home for families of hospitalized children

20 Years
2 Brothers, 1 Hospital

Just a few months before the Children’s Hospital of Georgia (formerly MCG Children’s Medical Center) in Augusta was dedicated, Amy Ashley delivered a 9-pound baby boy at 41 weeks in Greenwood, South Carolina.

But there was a problem.

“Austin was having trouble breathing, and they were trying to figure out what was wrong. I was so scared,” said Ashley, who was just 17 at the time.

After taking x-rays, doctors discovered that only one of the baby’s lungs had developed. Further complicating things, his intestines and other organs had been pushed up into his chest cavity while he was in the womb. Baby Austin was diagnosed with a diaphragmatic hernia, a hole in the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. Only about 1 in 5,000 babies are born with this condition.

“There was nothing more they could do for him in Greenwood,” said Ashley, “so he was helicoptered to the Children’s Hospital, because they have the highest level NICU for babies.”

After landing in Augusta, baby Austin was rushed inside and quickly placed on ECMO, an artificial heart and lung bypass system. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation is the full name of this life-saving technology, but ECMO is easier to say and less overwhelming to hear when your baby is clinging to life.

“They told me Austin had only about a 20 percent chance to live,” Ashley said. “It was very scary and stressful. I was away from my family. They were in Greenwood, and I was in Augusta.”

Ashley remembers Deborah Wall, a neonatal nurse and ECMO specialist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, taking the time to explain to her what was happening and why her baby was hooked up to this intimidating bundle of tubes, pumps and electronic devices.

“The thing was, this baby had a bad prognosis,” recalled Dr. Robyn Hatley. Unfortunately, this was a condition he has seen far too often over 30 years as a pediatric surgeon with the Medical College of Georgia. “Most babies born with a diaphragmatic hernia have just a 50 to 60 percent chance of survival,” Dr. Hatley said.

But Austin’s chances were not even half that good.

On day 14 of his ECMO run, the maximum number of days a child was placed on ECMO at the time, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia physician told Ashley it was time to take the infant to the operating room to repair the hernia and work on reorganizing his jumbled organs.

“As bad as things were, ultimately, he did very well,” said Dr. Hatley. “We were able to pull the organs down and close the hole in his diaphragm.”

Ashley said Austin had a second surgery in Augusta to remove a length of his intestines.

“They kept him for two months after that; so by the time we were discharged (in mid-April), I was just ready to get home,” she said.

Remarkably, Austin’s second lung soon fully developed, and the only signs of his initial distress were the occasional breathing treatment and bouts with high blood pressure.

Ashley’s baby is no longer a baby. Austin recently turned 20 and has dreams of becoming a chef.

“He loves to cook,” said Ashley, “and he hopes to go to culinary school.”

Coincidentally, the Children’s Hospital of Georgia, whose expert staff saved Austin’s life, also celebrates its 20th birthday this year.

Perhaps the biggest irony for Ashley came in June 2016 when her third son Trice (Freddie Hagood III) was delivered by C-section at 37 weeks. A whopping 11 pounds and 7 ounces, the nurse told Ashley that Trice was the biggest baby she had ever seen. The excitement was short-lived.

“He wasn’t crying or making any sound, and I just knew something was wrong,” Ashley said. “I had the same feeling before delivery, but after going through about six hours of tests and ultrasounds, they told me everything looked fine.”

But the newborn was not fine, explained Ashley. Doctors suspected hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a very dangerous condition in which the heart muscles are abnormally thick, upsetting blood flow to the heart and throughout the body.

“While I was pregnant, I was his lifeline,” said Ashley. “My body had been doing all the work for him. So when they cut the cord, everything shut down.”

Like his big brother Austin, Trice was flown to the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, however he did not improve. As neonatal experts were isolating the problem and exploring options, they asked Ashley if she had ever heard of ECMO.

“I was like, ‘you’ve got to be kidding me!’” she said. On the same day Trice arrived by helicopter in Augusta, Austin, her firstborn, was graduating high school in South Carolina.

Despite having just undergone major surgery to bring her baby into the world, Ashley and her family made arrangements to “wheelchair” her in so she wouldn’t miss graduation. Then they quickly left for Augusta to be with her youngest son.

Trice was on ECMO for 28 days, which was twice as long as Austin. Dr. Zahid Amin, pediatric cardiology section chief at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, discovered an aneurysm.

“He told us Trice was the first baby to have one where he had it in his aorta. Dr. Amin had to have a stent specially made for him,” Ashley said. In addition, he told her that he had never done this particular procedure and that he had never heard of anyone else doing it either.

Amazingly, Trice did well, too. He’ll be 2 in June.

“We just went in March to see his cardiologist and we don’t have to go back for three years. He has some fine motor skill issues, because he was on ECMO for so long, but he is improving every day with therapy,” Ashley said.

“Trice loves just about anything with wheels … trucks, cars, even stroller wheels. She said that Sesame Street is his thing, especially if she wants to get him out of a bad mood.

With so many years between 20-year-old Austin, middle son Dylan, 16, and the baby, Ashley said she wondered how the boys would adapt to such an age gap after Trice was born.

“Austin spends more time here now than when he lived at home,” she laughed. In fact, she said the boys are always taking Trice to the park, to get ice cream or some other fun activity.

“They really are very close,” she said.

These are precious moments the boys would not have, conceded Ashley, had it not been for the exceptional team at Augusta’s only children’s hospital.

“I love them. They are absolutely wonderful,” Ashley said. “If I ever hear of anybody who needs to go there for ECMO or any other situation, I’d give them my 100-percent recommendation.”

Deeper Roots
First children’s hospital in Southeast

Augusta’s only children’s hospital opened under the name MCG Children’s Medical Center in May 1998. But its roots run much deeper.

Its forerunner, The Wilhenford Hospital for Children, was the first children’s hospital in Augusta, in the state of Georgia and in the South. It was planned and operated by the Children’s Hospital Association, a group of Augusta women dedicated to the cause of caring for kids.

Much like the second-generation Children’s Hospital of Georgia, The Wilhenford’s compassionate care extended beyond the hospital walls. It operated a training school for pediatric nurses from 1911-1934 and served as the children’s ward and training facility for pediatricians at the Medical College of Georgia for decades.

Through an influenza pandemic, depression, wars, and local flooding, The Wilhenford consistently met the needs of thousands of children in Augusta until it closed in 1941.

Fun Facts about 1998

Children’s Hospital of Georgia opens. launches. is founded.

Smartwater is introduced.

MP3s are created for
first time.

New York Yankees win the World Series.

Denver Broncos win Super Bowl XXXII.

ESPN The Magazine begins publishing.

Titanic wins Oscar for Best Picture.

Saving Private Ryan is the biggest box office hit.

E.R. is the top-rated
TV show.

The final episode of Seinfeld airs.

Editor’s note: Pulled from and

This article appears in the May 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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