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Mercy Stories: Helping Every Child Reach Their Potential

Oct 18 2018
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Caring for down syndrome

Joe Pawsey is a true gift.

Born on the evening of his parent’s fifth anniversary, Joe has a smile that brightens a room and a fight inside of him to match. Now at age 16, he is a little shy, but he’ll also tell you about his favorite iPad game or answer questions about his recent birthday.

Joe’s story is a long one, filled with lots of visits to the doctor and several medical conditions to overcome. That’s because Joe was born with down syndrome and has a variety of medical needs.

Joe has several conditions associated with down syndrome including hypothyroidism and a congenital heart defect. In addition, he has allergies, asthma and frequent upper respiratory infections, as well as Tetralogy of Fallot, a complicated heart defect. This brought him to the operating room at just seven weeks old and resulted in a second operation when he reached 26 pounds.

Additionally, Joe works with physical, occupational and speech therapists to help develop his motor and language skills. Joe’s mom said that this is a lot to keep track of, and that it’s a blessing to have someone her family can trust to oversee it all.

Joe’s support system

Sherri Thomas, MD, is a pediatric developmental specialist at Mercy Health – Children’s Hospital. Although Joe sees individual specialists for his specific medical needs, Dr. Thomas monitors Joe’s overall health and development.

“Working with someone like Dr. Thomas helps relieve some of the stress,” Catherine said. “When you trust someone with your child, you feel safe.”

Dr. Thomas is fellowship trained in developmental and behavioral pediatrics and is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics in both General Pediatrics and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. She works with children from ages infant to 21 who have a variety of conditions including a variety of conditions such as down syndrome, genetic disorders, delays in development, intellectual disabilities and autism.

By working with families, she can help guide them as they navigate the various medical and developmental issues that many special needs children encounter.

“The practice of developmental pediatrics focuses on helping families by recognizing and addressing the unique challenges and medical needs of children with developmental differences,” Dr. Thomas said. “Our goal as developmental pediatricians is to be sure each and every child reaches their own full and unique potential. We look at the whole child, and the family and community the child interacts within.”

Dr. Thomas sees the Pawsey family every six months if things are going well with Joe’s health – more often if needed. This helps Joe be healthier and eases the minds of those who love him.

“Quality medical support makes parenting easier,” David said. “It helps create less stress.”

To learn more about Mercy Health’s pediatrics care, click here.


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