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Children’s Medical Center earns fourth international ECMO award

Augusta, GA

Roughly 1 in 3 babies born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia die. But Lila Rose Burbage is a survivor.
“When she was born, she didn’t cry, and she seemed to be having trouble breathing,” said her mother, Alice Burbage.

Lila Rose on ECMO shortly after birth in July 2010.
Lila Rose is a healthy 2-year-old today.

Doctors discovered that the condition, in which a hole in the diaphragm allows abdominal organs to move into the chest, were causing Lila Rose’s right kidney and liver to crush her right lung. Her left lung was in jeopardy as well. The Burbages were told that without quick help, Lila Rose wouldn’t make it.

“It was terrifying,” said Burbage. “We were just in shock.”

Within the hour, Lila Rose was transported to the Georgia Health Sciences Children’s Medical Center, where she was put on ECMO. ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, is a lifesaving technique that mimics the natural function of the heart and lungs, allowing an infant or child to heal without taxing these vital functions. Conditions requiring ECMO include respiratory and/or cardiac failure as a result of birth defects, trauma and severe infection.

ECMO channeled Lila Rose’s blood into a roller pump that served as her "heart.” This pump sent her blood through an oxygenator, which served as her artificial lung, infusing her blood with oxygen and removing carbon dioxide before returning it to her body.

Lila Rose spent nine days on ECMO and went home a few weeks later.

“They expected her to be on it longer, but she is such a little fighter that she did better than expected,” Burbage said. “We were also told she could have severe cerebral palsy and other problems, but her lungs are fully developed now. In fact, besides being a little underweight, she is a very healthy and active 2-year-old.”

The CMC ECMO team recently earned its fourth consecutive Award of Excellence in Life Support from the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, an international group of health care professionals and scientists who develop and evaluate novel therapies to support failing organ systems. The organization recognizes and honors ECMO programs that optimize performance, innovation, satisfaction and quality. The Award of Excellence is recognized by U.S. News and World Report and Parents magazine as criteria for top pediatric hospitals.

The GHS Children’s Medical Center is a pioneer in ECMO technology, introducing the Southeast’s first ECMO program for children in 1985. The program has administered life-saving support to more than 450 patients since then, and it is one of only two ECMO programs in Georgia.

“We are very blessed and fortunate to have ECMO here in Augusta,” said Burbage. “Lila Rose is proof of that.”


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