Helping kids heal – for 30 years | Eastern North Carolina Now

    News Release:

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals marks a major milestone as it celebrates 30 years in eastern North Carolina

    GREENVILLE, NC     The spring Celebration Broadcast for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals on May 29 and 31 marks an exciting milestone. It is the 30th anniversary in eastern North Carolina for this organization dedicated to helping sick and injured kids in the region. Since its first telethon in 1986, CMNH has continued to grow, attracting supporters and contributions that supplement funding for children's health projects through the James and Connie Maynard Children's Hospital at Vidant Medical Center.

    "Every year, we celebrate the generous people of eastern North Carolina who help us to help kids," says Rhonda James, director, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. "We use 100 percent of our contributions to care for children who need us during their times of illness and injury. The support of our generous donors means we can offer our youngest patients the kid-friendly settings that help them heal, and the advanced treatments they need to get better, without having to travel hundreds of miles from home."

    The Celebration Broadcast airs on May 29 from 8 - 11:30 p.m., and May 31 from 7 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. on WITN, the organization's media partner. The broadcast features this year's miracle children, whose stories are below. We also expect a visit from Miss North Carolina, Beth Stovall, along with former miracle children and other special guests.

    WITN aired the first Children's Miracle Network Telethon in 1986, which raised $67,000. "It was exciting," says Fred Anderson, creative services director at WITN, who was on hand for that first broadcast, and continues to produce them today. "Everything was new, and we were figuring it all out. We got immediate response, with a lot of people who called in to support us right from the very beginning. We knew at that point it was important to eastern North Carolina. When the phones start ringing, you know you've got an audience."

    Dr. Jon Tingelstad, professor emeritus of pediatrics and former director of children's hospital, remembers the excitement of that first year. The children's hospital was created in 1986 as a "hospital within a hospital" that included a pediatrics unit, neonatal intensive care, pediatric intensive care and the newborn nursery. "We built a foundation others have carried on," says Tingelstad. "At our hospital today, the facilities for children are exceptional, and the staff and physicians are terrific."

    Over the years, pledges, along with the support of national and local sponsors, volunteers, and partners, have helped raise more than $23 million for Maynard Children's Hospital.

    This year's poster child is Cameron Harris, 9, of Greenville. This year's broadcast will honor the memory of Cameron's older sister, Jordan, 11, who was also selected to be a poster child. Jordan lost her battle with sickle cell anemia on May 9. Other miracle children include Hudson Taylor, 1; Austin Nahrebecki, 2; Jayce Johnson, 1; and Georgia Grace Godwin, 7.

    For families throughout eastern North Carolina, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been a dedicated partner in health care. Thanks to generous contributors, volunteers, organizations and sponsors, Children's Miracle Network Hospitals has been able to help provide programs and services that make life better for families and kids.

    Cameron Harris, 9

    A smart young lady, with bright sparkling eyes, curiosity about the world and an appetite for learning, Cameron Harris is living a full life despite having sickle cell anemia. She attends school in Winterville and enjoys playing with her dog, Benson.

    Sickle cell anemia is an incurable chronic condition that affects the red blood cells, reducing their ability to carry oxygen. The disease causes pain and reduces the body's ability to function. It is an inherited disorder that affects everyone differently. For Cameron, it causes burning joint pain and stiffness. These symptoms result from the sickle shape of her red blood cells caused by the illness. Normal red blood cells are round discs, but the red blood cells in people affected with sickle cell disease have crescent-shaped cells. These defective cells contain a type of hemoglobin that causes them to become stiff and sticky. They clump or collect in such a way that it blocks blood flow to the joints and organs.

    Her loving parents, Jerald and Stephanie Harris, have been a rock of support for her, getting her the care she needs, while also helping her to aim high. They say, "She has a disease, but the disease doesn't have her." They are grateful for Maynard Children's Hospital and the outstanding care she receives, so close to home.

    Cameron recently lost her big sister, Jordan, 11, to sickle cell disease. Jordan's illness caused her to have strokes and difficulty breathing. Jordan, like her sister, was a bright star in her family and community.

    Hudson Taylor, 1

    At 14 months old, Hudson Taylor is an active little boy who enjoys playing and loves his family. Because he has cystic fibrosis, twice a day, his parents tap on his chest using their cupped hands to help loosen the fluid in his lungs. He also takes enzymes that help him digest and absorb nutrients from food. Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder that affects the lungs and digestive system. This disorder causes the body to create unusually thick, sticky mucus. In the lungs, it leads to life-threatening infections. In the digestive system, it can block the action of the pancreas, preventing the body from breaking down food, resulting in lack of nutritional absorption. Despite his illness, he's a sweet little boy who enjoys all the fun you'd expect from a boy his age. He likes playing with balls, illuminated toys, and music, and "he loves his sister a whole lot," his mom, Connie Taylor said.

    The family - Connie, his dad, Travis, and sister, Lydia - are very optimistic about Hudson's future. That's because developments in treating cystic fibrosis continue to improve the quality of life for people with the condition. It is impossible to know the seriousness of his condition until he is older, but the Taylor family is confident that with the care at Maynard Children's Hospital, their little boy will continue to grow and thrive and enjoy all the fun activities of childhood.

    Jayce Johnson, 1

    Little Jayce Johnson was born at only 27 weeks of gestation, and weighed a little more than two pounds at birth. Because of his prematurity, many of his organs, including his lungs, had not developed. He has been on a ventilator for all of his life. Indeed, most of his short life has taken place right inside Maynard Children's Hospital, where he spent the first year after his birth in 2013. After birth, he was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where he received the supportive care he needed. In addition to his inability to breathe, he also had a heart defect that caused pulmonary hypertension. At last, he's at home with his parents, who say, Jayce will often grab at the tracheostomy tube. His father, Philip Johnson, looks forward to the day his son will be able to breathe without it, which may be within a few years.

    Until then, he enjoys watching his happy, cheerful son grow and develop. Jayce loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and is developing the skills to hold objects like blocks. He's starting to use his legs to scoot around, and is continuing to grow and thrive, and thrill his loving parents. "He's doing great - he's getting bigger," says Philip. "It's never a dull moment."

    Austin Nahrebecki, 2

    A rare defect meant that when Austin Nahrebecki was born, his kidneys failed to work because the tubes draining them were twisted, a condition known as obstructive uropathy. His parents, Rebecca and Charles Nahrebecki, were with him as he underwent many procedures at Maynard Children's Hospital to save his life, including the dialysis he underwent each day and the use of a feeding tube. A kidney transplant was considered. When Rebecca learned she was a perfect match for her son, she donated one of her kidneys to give him a better chance at a normal childhood.

    "He would see his brother running around, and Austin would be stuck in his crib, on dialysis," says Rebecca. "He was in a crib until he was about 2 years old. He wasn't able to function like a child his age. I could tell it was bothering him not to be able to do things his brother was. So, I decided to give him a kidney."

    These days, Austin is a bundle of energy. After months of gingerly supporting himself to move around, the day he returned home with his new kidney, he stood up, and steadily walked upright. "I was so excited," says Rebecca. He loves swinging, and playing on push cars in the yard with his brother, Anthony, 4.

    Georgia Grace Godwin, 7

    Just before her sixth birthday, Georgia Grace Godwin received a terrifying diagnosis - acute lymphocytic leukemia. This rapidly advancing cancer affects the blood and bone marrow, causing the production of lethal cells that damage the body. Georgia began intensive chemotherapy in May 2014, and those treatments continued for nine months. During that time, this brave little girl underwent 19 transfusions, 13 lumbar punctures and ongoing chemotherapy. She spent 54 nights in the hospital. The leukemia went into remission during the first month, which was great news for the family. She remains a high-risk patient, and the family must be vigilant for signs of a fever or any illness, which can be dangerous for her. Earlier this spring, after a very active few days when she participated in several events, including a ballet recital and birthday party, she became sick and required hospitalization. She's expected to recover and will continue maintenance chemotherapy through October 2016.

    Despite her illness, Georgia is a growing, active little girl who loves ballet and all kinds of dancing. She attends school in Greenville, and after several months of home-schooling, was able to join her classmates in March. She's a courageous little girl everyone enjoys. "She's incredibly brave when she comes to the hospital," says her mother, Amber Godwin. "When they access her port, she doesn't flinch. She's quiet and shy in the hospital, but sweet, and she opens up when she is around others." She lives with her parents, Amber and Preston, and sister, Sailor.

Televised on WITN

8 - 11:30 p.m. - May 29

7 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. - May 31

Call (252) 847-5437 or (800) 673-5437 or visit for more information.

    Contact: Beth Anne Atkins, Vidant Health Strategic Development, (252) 744-3891,

    Vidant Health, a mission-driven, not-for-profit corporation, owns, leases or has a majority membership interest in nine eastern North Carolina hospitals and has a management agreement with one other. The health system includes Albemarle Health, Vidant Beaufort Hospital, Vidant Bertie Hospital, Vidant Chowan Hospital, Vidant Duplin Hospital, Vidant Edgecombe Hospital, The Outer Banks Hospital, Vidant Medical Center, Vidant Pungo Hospital, Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital, Vidant Home Health and Hospice, Vidant Wellness Centers, Vidant Medical Group and is affiliated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. On the web at
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