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Women's Center celebrates 10 years at Northside Hospital Forsyth
Managers Sandra Grady, Amy McPhail Jill Sams and Melissa Sugg are happy to be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Northside Hospital Forsyth Women's Center on Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. All four have been with the center since its opening. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Northside Hospital Forsyth has been the site of many births over the last decade, but the hospital is getting ready for a big birthday of its own.

Monday will mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Northside Hospital Forsyth Women’s Center, which opened to the public on Aug. 6, 2008.

Women’s Center Manager Melissa Sugg, who has been in the role since the facility opened, said the opening was “terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time.”

“It’s a little surreal,” she said. “I think we feel like the time has flown by, but then when we think about the first babies born that were born 10 years ago are 10 years old … that’s kind of like ‘wow, the time has flown.’”

Monday also marks the 10th birthday for Hudson Lee Bickers, the first baby born in the women’s center. Hudson was born at 7:44 a.m. the day the center opened at 20 inches long and 7 pounds, 15 inches long.

“It was a great experience, overall. We were treated like royalty, basically. We walked in with just an open-arms greeting, and from there, everything was just smooth sailing,” said his mother, Allyson Bickers. “Being the only ones there, everyone was kind of in the room when he was delivered and just kind of made a big deal out of it and treated us great. We had no issues, and really it was a smooth process.”

Bickers said Hudson thinks his special designation is “pretty neat” and loves seeing a framed Forsyth County News article highlighting his birth.

Sugg credited the success over the last decade to other managers who have been with the center since it opened: Special Care Nurse Manager Sandra Grady, Labor and Delivery Manager Jill Sams and Clinical Manager for Family-Centered Care Amy McPhail.

“I have to give the credit to these ladies because the four of us had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for coming together and identifying the people that we wanted to create the new service at this campus,” Sugg said. “It wasn’t that they were already delivering babies and we were just building a new women’s center. There had been no intentional deliveries in this county for 25 years when we opened.”

From 1993 to 2008, only an estimated 160 births happened in Forsyth County due to there not being a facility.

Now, it is not uncommon for several siblings to have been born at the hospital.

“Another cool thing is that since we opened, we’ve not only delivered babies, we’ve delivered families,” Sams said. “People have come back to have their second, third and sometimes fourth child, so we’ve created families in the community.”

At the time of the hospital’s opening, it also meant employees, many of whom lived around Forsyth, did not have to go all the way to Atlanta, which helped build a hometown, community feel at the center.

“It’s a team effort, and that’s what we tried to create here,” Sugg said. “I think one thing that makes it different that I always point out is this whole hospital campus still really has a community feeling. We’re still really connected to the community. The patients that are coming in are oftentimes somebody’s friend or mother or cousin or school teacher or something.”

Beverly Anglin, a nurse present for the first delivery, said it was exciting working in her own community, even if there was some trepidation about opening a new center.

“I was very excited about being able to work in the community where my family actually lived, Cumming,” she said. “It was exciting being a part of a brand new facility, opening its doors for the first time in Forsyth County. To be honest though, there was some uncertainty as to how many patients would come to deliver with us.”

While the center had offerings not common in the area at the time – such as individual rooms for patients in the NICU – that did not stop the center from expanding and growing to where it is today.

“When we opened, we hired only experienced level III nurses because we needed to be ready for whatever walked in the door,” Grady said. “Then we worked really hard for five years to obtain that level III certification from the state.”

When born, babies are given one of three levels of health: Level I means a birth with no complications, level II is for any baby born after 32 weeks needing medical attention and level III, the most severe, is for babies born after at least 22 weeks at any severity.

Since opening, the center has added a new wing, more rooms, and classes for new and expecting parents, including classes for newborns, new siblings and infant CPR.

Patients in the women’s center typically don’t even need to venture to other parts of the hospital, as even the operating rooms, business office and pharmacists they need are located where they are.

“One thing we offer basically is one-stop service,” Sugg said. “All of the needs for the vast majority of our patients can be addressed here in this women’s center. They can come in and all of their needs can be addressed in this part of the building without having to go to the main part of the hospital. Everyone here either is expecting a baby or has recently had a baby.”

Sugg said while she’s happy with how far the center had come in its first 10 years, she’s also excited for what could come in the next decade. She’s especially hopeful to grow services for high-risk patients.

“We obviously hope to continue to grow, and we have every reason to believe we will,” Sugg said. “We hope to expand. We hope to add more space so we can have even more deliveries. I’d love to see us be doubling again in a few years.”

McPhail also had some thoughts about who could be working in the hospital by that time.

“Think of this,” McPhail said, “in the next 10 years, we’ll be interviewing and hiring, maybe, some of our babies.”