Kennedy’s Story: Caring through generations

Erin Correa of Tacoma didn’t have to look far for pediatric care when her daughter Kennedy, now 15-months, was born.

She and her husband, John, knew her childhood pediatrician – Pediatrics Northwest provider Gary Tart, M.D. –  would offer exceptional care for Kennedy.

“It was an obvious choice,” said Erin. “It’s fun to come full circle and bring your child to the provider you saw growing up.”

“It was an obvious choice. It’s fun to come full circle and bring your child to the provider you saw growing up.” – Erin Correa

Dr. Tart also sees the benefit of generational care. “It’s been fun to see Erin’s transformation from teen to young adult to parent,” he said. “It’s valuable to already know her family’s history and background. When a former patient brings their child to you, you know that they must have developed a good sense of trust with you in the past.”

“Having a long-term relationship improves the comfort level,” said John. “Erin has known Dr. Tart since she was a child. He’s easy to understand and he’s calm.”

Both Erin and John feel a sense of family at the James Center office, Kennedy’s medical home and one of two Pediatrics Northwest offices in Tacoma.

Medical Home – an approach to pediatric health care in which a trusted physician partners with the family to establish regular ongoing primary care.

“We really enjoy the people at the James Center office,” said Erin. “They know what they’re doing. The nurses are so great and I enjoy Matt’s [the front office representative] friendliness. It’s fun to see him up at the front desk and I love that he still remembers my sister and I as former patients.”

5 Tips to Keep Your Children Safe in the Sun

John says his favorite part about being a dad is “baby smiles.” “I love when Kennedy smiles at me out of nowhere,” he said. “We take so many selfies together.”

As Kennedy’s doctor now, “My role has changed,” said Dr. Tart. “I am now her child’s doctor and am advising her on her baby.”

The Correas are grateful to have Dr. Tart as a sounding board amid what can be an overwhelming amount of information for first-time parents.

“As new parents, it’s difficult to sift through all the wisdom your friends, family, the internet and other doctors give you.” – Erin Correa

“As new parents, it’s difficult to sift through all the wisdom your friends, family, the internet and other doctors give you,” said Erin. “Dr. Tart is no-nonsense and traditional. He’s very knowledgeable of newer medical practices and gives advice, but ultimately allows us to make the decision we feel most comfortable with because she is our child. It’s reassuring to have someone tell you you’re doing well.”

Dr. Tart realizes parents get information from a lot of different sources. “I can be an advisor to help guide them in the right direction,” he said.

“Kennedy is all smiles all the time,” said Erin. “She’s just a happy child.”

Erin and John were especially grateful to have a close relationship with Dr. Tart when Kennedy developed jaundice as a newborn.

Jaundice – a yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes that is caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood.

“Dr. Tart made it feel like not such a scary process,” recalled Erin. “He told us what we needed to do for therapy. I was absolutely terrified at first, but Dr. Tart helped us understand the scope of the situation.”

“Jaundice is something we see fairly often with newborns,” said Dr. Tart. “However, it can be a bit scary for new parents who don’t know what to expect.”

Kennedy was treated with at-home phototherapy and her bilirubin levels returned to normal. Today she is a healthy toddler.

“Kennedy is a happy, social kid,” said Dr. Tart.

“She is pretty independent,” added Erin. “She likes to explore and do her own thing.”

The Correa family enjoys going to parks, hiking and taking walks together.

The Correas are still adjusting to life as a family of three. To make the transition smoother, they try to follow Dr. Tart’s advice of keeping a consistent routine.

“As a married couple, we were very spontaneous,” said John. “We liked to just go out to eat whenever we wanted. Now we use a white board to write out a schedule at home and have a plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

While it helps to stay organized, the Correas realize having a toddler can make life unpredictable. “We make plans but understand they probably won’t go as expected,” said John. “It’s important to roll with things and not be too hard hammered about sticking to a timeline. We try to just have fun with being parents.”

Dr. Tart knows that parenting toddlers can be both rewarding and frustrating.  He says it’s clear John and Erin are dedicated and concerned parents, and believes the Correas are a wonderful example of what makes the patient-centered medical home a successful model for medical care.

“Children are more comfortable when they know they will be seeing the same medical provider and staff they are used to,” he said. “In Kennedy’s case, the continuity of care goes back a generation to mom.”

Categories: Patient Stories
Related Stories