On Jan. 3, 2020, Allyson and Derek Weyenberg welcomed their third child, Crew, to the world. While they didn’t know it at the time, Crew would drastically change the family’s lives — and their relationship with Children’s Wisconsin.
“From the very beginning, I felt we were in good hands with Dr. Lucy,” said Allyson. “She not only took care of Crew, but she took care of our whole family to help us understand everything that was happening.”
Crew’s first appointment with Children’s Wisconsin was held at the clinic in Neenah, Wis. But Crew needed follow-ups. And due to limited appointment availability, to see Dr. Reising the family needed to travel to the Children's Wisconsin Mequon Clinic — a 90-minute car trip from the family’s home in Kimberly, Wis. In fact, since that first appointment, Crew has made that 100-mile trip 20 times.
After examining Crew’s and reviewing his test results, Dr. Reising engaged with Tim Martin, MD, a complex pediatric otolaryngologist in the Children’s Wisconsin Ear, Nose and Throat Program. Dr. Martin determined there was a small amount of fluid on Crew’s ear drums that may be the cause of his abnormal hearing tests. At just 3 months old, Crew had surgery to place tubes in his tiny ears.
After the surgery, however, Crew still showed hearing loss. He was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate sensorineural — meaning permanent — hearing loss.
Over the next year, Crew received regular care by Dr. Reising and Dr. Martin. In January 2021, Crew had an MRI of his brain to rule out abnormalities that may be responsible for his hearing loss. The results came back normal.
That’s when the Children’s Wisconsin Genetics and Genomics Program was added to Crew’s care team. Testing identified a genetic mutation that resulted in hearing loss of varying degrees. That meant, Crew’s hearing would always be compromised and there is a 50 percent chance it would get worse, possibly to deafness.
Not only that, but the doctors explained, while unlikely, it was possible the Weyenberg’s other children could also have this gene difference and be at risk for hearing loss. Their oldest son, Jonah, tested negative. But their daughter, Henley, tested positive.
As a result, the family has multiple appointments every year with Children’s Wisconsin. Henley has not experienced any hearing loss, but sees an audiologist every six months to monitor for changes. Crew has multiple appointments a year to check for fit and refitting of a special hearing aid that he started wearing at 6 months old. The appointments are a big commitment, with the family typically setting aside a whole day to come down to Milwaukee.
“It was important to see the specialists at Children’s Wisconsin,” said Allyson. “They only treat kids and with Crew being so little and Henley having the same condition, we wanted them to be seen by medical staff who are specially trained in caring for kids. The travel back and forth has been a lot, but worth it for the care we received.”
However, that’s all about to change with the new Children’s Wisconsin Appleton Clinic, which opens on March 6, 2023.
Going forward, most of the Weyenberg’s monitoring and follow-up appointments will be done at the Appleton Clinic, cutting a 45-minute one-way drive down to just 15 minutes. Crew and Henley will miss less school, and Allyson and Derek will miss less work. The same will be true for thousands of other families.
Every year, families living in Northeast and Central Wisconsin visit a Children’s Wisconsin location 50,000 times. Before the clinic opened, only about 20,000 of those visits happened at clinics in the Fox Valley. Families travelled to Milwaukee for the other 30,000 visits. With new and expanded services, the Appleton Clinic has the capacity to support up to 70,000 visits a year.
“The Appleton Clinic will accommodate the increasing number of families choosing to have their kids treated by Children’s Wisconsin experts and provide expanded services for current families in the region,” said Matt Buelow, MD, medical director of the Northeast region for Children’s Wisconsin. “As someone who lives here, it is exciting to see the doors to the clinic open and to see more kids getting care closer to where they live.”
The Appleton Clinic has been designed specifically for kids and teens and is conveniently located off Interstate 41 at 2575 E. Evergreen Dr. In addition to consolidating and expanding existing care, the new Appleton Clinic will add lab and imaging services to the region. More than 20 specialty care services will be offered at the clinic, including:
A full list of specialties offered is available on the clinic’s web page.
The new Appleton Clinic expands Children’s Wisconsin services in the region, and reflects a commitment to bring care closer to home, reducing the travel burden for families. Including the clinic, Children’s Wisconsin plans to invest more than $30 million in Northeast and Central Wisconsin, with a goal of $13.2 million from philanthropic support.
The Children’s Wisconsin presence in the region includes the Children’s Wisconsin Fox Valley Hospital, located within the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah. That hospital provides a level III neonatal intensive care unit and additional pediatric inpatient care. The Appleton Clinic will also support Connected for Kids, the pediatric joint venture with Bellin Health and ThedaCare that was announced in 2021. The three health systems are working to make a meaningful impact on the lives of children and adolescents who have Bellin and ThedaCare primary care doctors.
In addition to the specialty medical services, the new Appleton Clinic will also be home to the Children’s Wisconsin Fox Valley Child Advocacy Center. Children’s Wisconsin also supports the Green Bay and North Central Wisconsin Child Advocacy Centers, which care for kids who have experienced abuse or neglect.
Children’s Wisconsin is also a founding partner and supporter of Catalpa Health, a collaboration to meet the Fox Valley’s growing need to support kids’ mental and behavioral health. Additionally, Children’s Wisconsin partners with the Fox Valley Health Improvement Coalition and other health systems to complete a health needs assessment focused on the needs of kids.