Young woman fulfills dream to change lives at same institution where doctors saved hers

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Orientation at the Medical College of Georgia starts Thursday and classes begin for the 2019-2020 school year on Monday.

One of the future doctors in the first year class was born in Augusta more than 2 decades ago with a deadly birth defect and without fetal life support, she would not have survived. Now, this young woman is fulfilling her dream to change lives, at the same place where doctors saved hers.

Ellyn Strother grew up in Augusta before she moved to Columbia, SC and went to the University of South Carolina. She spent the first few very fragile weeks of her life at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. She returned to Augusta University this summer to start school at the Medical College of Georgia

Ellyn Strother days after birth

Ellyn was born not breathing with a condition that can be fatal. She obviously does not remember those scary moments in the hospital, but her parents have told her about them ever since she was little.

“For my mom and dad especially those were very difficult days and weeks,” Ellyn says. “Even to this day, my mom can recount in utter detail the first time she saw me, finally getting to hold me days later.”

Ellyn Strother shadows Dr. Robyn Hatley

Pediatric surgeon Dr. Robyn Hatley put Ellyn on the pediatric life support machine called ECMO. Dr. Hatley has had hundreds of conversations with parents like Ellyn’s about the life-saving procedure.

“[I tell them] if we don’t go on ECMO, there’s a 99-100% chance your child will not survive. If we do go on ECMO, there is an 85-90% chance that your child will survive,” Dr. Hatley says.

Ellyn might not be alive if not for Dr. Hatley’s care. She also might not be starting school at MCG if not for his guidance. Dr. Hatley, the pediatric surgeon who saved her life, is now her mentor.

“It’s really amazing to just step back and think abut that,” Ellyn says. “I might not have ever had the chance to walk or talk or spend all that time with my family, let alone be here in medical school and being able to help someone else out in the way that I’ve been helped by Dr. Hatley and the other doctors… Every now and then I’ll step back and think about that and it’s somewhat overwhelming.”

Dr. Robyn Hatley mentors Ellyn Strother whose life he saved at birth.

Dr. Hatley is now overwhelmed with pride as he watches Ellyn start her career at the medical school where she survived.

“10 years from now, if I looked up and she was taking care of me, I wouldn’t worry about anything,” Dr. Hatley says about Ellyn. “She is kind, she has compassion, she’s going to find out what the problem is and sometimes you can’t teach that. She has a lot of the intangibles that are going to make her a fantastic, fantastic physician.”

It is too early for her to know for sure. However, Ellyn says if she had to chose tomorrow, she would chose to specialize in pediatrics, just like Dr. Hatley.

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