Kansas City,
14:24 PM

Community Physician Goes Extra Mile to Help 8-Year-Old Patient

Dr. Wayne Morton, board-certified family physician in Osceloa, and Dr. Celeste Tarantino, Associate ED Division Director and Section Chief of Emergency Medicine at Children's Mercy.

Sick children outside the Kansas City area are transported to Children’s Mercy all the time for specialized pediatric care. But it’s not often that a community physician not only makes the referral, but literally goes the extra mile to bring the patient to our door.

Yet that’s just what happened one evening in late March when the Adele Hall Emergency Department phone rang and Celeste Tarantino, MD, Associate ED Division Director and Section Chief of Emergency Medicine, answered.

The caller was Wayne Morton, MD, a board-certified family physician in Osceola, Missouri. His patient, an 8-year-old boy from an Amish family, was showing symptoms of acute appendicitis, possibly perforated. The family had no car, so Dr. Morton put the child and his parents in his car and made the 100-mile trip to Kansas City.

“Dr. Morton said he hadn’t been here in a while and wanted directions,” Dr. Tarantino recalled. “When I asked if he had a GPS in his car or a smart phone for directions, he told me he was an old-school country doctor and doesn’t use all that ‘fancy stuff.' So I gave him directions, and a little after 10 p.m. they were here.”

Dr. Morton’s suspicions were correct. The youngster soon was out of surgery and admitted for inpatient care receiving IV antibiotics, proving that while the “fancy stuff” is transforming health care, experience and caring commitment still matter.

Children's Mercy: a trusted partner

Dr. Morton had been running errands on his day off at the Morton-van Zanten Clinic in Osceola, a town of about 1,000 southeast of Kansas City. While stopping by the family’s home – they are his neighbors – the boy’s mother mentioned her son’s stomachache.

So after completing his chores, Dr. Morton returned to check on the youngster – nothing unusual for a family physician who has been seeing patients for 43 years and still makes occasional house calls. What he found concerned him.

“The boy had all the signs of acute appendicitis,” Dr. Morton said. “His mother said he’d been feeling badly for about 24 hours, so I thought it was likely the appendix was ruptured.”

There was no question in his mind what to do next: go past the hospital in nearby Clinton, Missouri, and head straight to Children’s Mercy.

“There are excellent surgeons at the Clinton hospital, but if the appendix was ruptured, I knew he would need care from pediatric specialists, and it would be two or three hours to transport him from Clinton to Children’s Mercy,” he said. “It’s just an hour and 45-minute drive to Kansas City, so it was quicker to put him and his family in the car and drive them myself.”

Equally important was the family’s trust in Children's Mercy, where years earlier one of their five boys had been treated for an abscess that arose from a tick bite.

“The family had a good experience there before, and if the appendix was ruptured, Children’s Mercy would offer better care for a young patient. That’s why we came there.”

All in a day’s (and night’s) work

While the boy would remain hospitalized at Children's Mercy for several more days, Dr. Morton stayed for about an hour, then headed back home.

“He said he needed to feed his livestock and be ready to see patients at 8 a.m. the next morning,” Dr. Tarantino said.

For Children's Mercy Emergency Department staff, the experience was heart-warming. “Dr. Morton was delightful, and so was the family.”

And Dr. Morton’s reward for making an unplanned trip to Kansas City on his day off to make sure a patient got the care he needed? Buttermilk.

“I like buttermilk, and there’s nothing better than farm-fresh Amish buttermilk,” he said, with obvious appreciation.

Because old-school or high-tech, country or city, it’s still about caring.


Learn more about Appendicitis Surgery at Children’s Mercy.