JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Eleven-year-old Cameron Jones of Jonesboro spent part of his doctor's visit telling his physician he was not actually 39.
"I'm not old," the Jonesboro resident exclaimed while discussing the visit.
His mother, Susan Jones, said the lighthearted discussion with Dr. Stephen Bates, who jokingly suggested that Cameron was nearly 40, kept the boy from focusing on the task at hand — a nurse preparing him for an electroencephalogram (EEG) test.
That friendly approach is one of the reasons the family likes visiting the Centers for Children in Jonesboro. Cameron is one of just under 1,900 patients who have visited the 3,500-square-foot center since it opened about one year ago, The Jonesboro Sun reported (http://is.gd/OzEUcj).
A joint effort of Arkansas Children's Hospital and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Department of Pediatrics, the center is one of two established statewide to boost health-care accessibility for children needing subspecialty and developmental care.
Bates said the facility at 520 Carson St. includes neurology and cardiology centers, and it is an expansion of what was previously provided in Jonesboro. The pediatric neurologist has worked in Jonesboro since 2004, "so I already knew the needs of the community," he said.
Bates is on site daily; a general pediatric surgeon, a urologist and a cardiologist provide part-time help. Soon the available doctors will also include a team of geneticists and a pediatric rehabilitator. All are employed by UAMS, and Bates said more services will be provided as they become available.
"They are just a really good group," Susan Jones said. "I don't know where we'd be without them."
Her son Cameron was born with a heart defect that resulted in surgery. She said the heart transplant was good overall, but complications had Cameron hooked to a machine providing heart-lung bypass support. Jones said it basically kept her son alive until better support could be provided. Cameron has since continued to visit Bates for treatment.
Patients ages newborn to 18 are referred by their pediatricians; 60 percent of the patients live outside of Jonesboro. Bates said they primarily see patients with a neurological dysfunction or various developmental disabilities including epilepsy, behavioral problems and attention deficit disorder.
Bates said he acts as a consultant to the primary doctor and can provide diagnosis and treatment.
"We can see quite complicated cases," he said, recalling a child who had brain surgery a month ago and a 3-week-old who was having seizures.
It's rare that Bates cannot diagnosis a patient. If there is trouble, he has access to a variety of resources, including the UAMS and the Arkansas Children's Hospital networks and other children's hospitals across the nation.
Patients who traveled to Little Rock for all their needs before the Jonesboro facility opened can now save time and money with reduced travel expenses.
In Cameron's case, the Nettleton sixth grader visits five separate doctors. Only his neurologist — Bates — is in Jonesboro. The family has to drive to Little Rock every two to six months to visit each of the other doctors. At times, it means making the roughly 250-mile round trip three times in one week, though occasionally the visits can scheduled for the same day.
Jones said it helps having Bates close, especially since her son had his first seizure two years ago and his second one a week ago. Cameron is transported to St. Bernards Medical Center, where Bates can meet them.
Seizures are not uncommon in cardiac patients, Bates said.
"Really and truly, Dr. Bates is awesome," Susan Jones said. "He takes the time to ask you all the questions and gives detailed reports to all of the other doctors to keep them all on the same page."