Fort Myers family flees Irma to have baby in Tennessee

FRANKLIN, Tenn. Matthew Kern won’t remember Hurricane Irma, but the storm will always be a part of his life story.

The newborn came into the world Sept. 14 at Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, Tennessee, some 900 miles away from his family’s home in Fort Myers. Irma forced the Kerns to flee to Tallahassee and then Tennessee to have their baby.

Brayden Saari, Scott Kern (top), William Kern (bottom), Matthew Kern, Anja Kern (Photo via Williamson Medical Center).

Anja Kern and her husband, Scott, were warned that Southwest Florida hospitals could become overcrowded as the hurricane tore through the area.

“We knew we could face a pretty severe devastation if Irma hit,” Scott Kern told Williamson Medical Center. “So, we wanted to provide the safest situation for (Anja and baby).”

Tallahassee initially looked like the place to go to get away from Irma. But just as they were checking into a hospital there, the storm’s track shifted west, and the Kerns realized they would have to leave Florida.

Scott Kern began looking online for the best hospitals for obstetrics in Tennessee, and the first search result showed Williamson Medical Center as the winner of a 2017 Women’s Choice Award.

“I read the reviews,” he said, “and the reviews just confirmed the award.”

The family of four, with a fifth on the way, settled on the hospital and drove another 400 miles to Franklin, near Nashville.

“We just kept focusing on the fact that we were heading somewhere safe and, at the end of the day, that was the goal,” Scott Kern said.

The detour allowed Scott’s parents to drive from Indiana to see the birth. They originally planned to fly to Florida after Matthew was born.

The Kerns went home to Fort Myers a week after the birth to find their home without damage but also without power. They stayed in a hotel until the electricity came back.

“Through it all, we have tried to focus on all our blessings and realize that, compared to others in our area recently affected by this wild weather, we have much for which we are thankful,” Scott Kern said.