Friday, January 05, 2007

He's Not Really A Doctor - He Just Plays One On TV

When I saw the news headline earlier today that said “Girl’s Surgery Sparks Debate: Parents Stunt Daughter’s Growth”, a wave of nausea instantly swept over me. I quickly went on to read that it is a terribly complicated situation where the parents of a severely retarded young girl approved surgery to remove her breast tissue, give her a complete hysterectomy, and dose her with mega amounts of hormones to stop her growth. The parents believe this will make life-long care of the girl easier if she stays small and easy to manage. The ethical dilemma in the whole thing is painfully obvious.

But when I first saw the headline, I thought the parents had stunted their daughter’s growth because… she was tall.

I have always been tall. Really tall. Crazy tall. I don’t remember being too bothered by it all until I went to school. That’s when my difference became clearly apparent, so I got to endure lots of teasing and taunting. We all had our childhood crosses to bear, and that one was mine. I’ve been the height I am now – about 6 feet without shoes – since the 7th or 8th grade. The most treacherous time was in junior high, but thankfully high school and college were just fine. I hardly even think about being tall now, and when I do, it’s not a sore point. It’s just who I am.

But I was REALLY tall as a kid. Because my parents were concerned, they took me to the doctor when I was young to make sure that I was okay. I was growing so fast my legs hurt and I had stretch marks appearing because my body was changing so rapidly. I don’t remember my exact age for this doctor’s visit, but I believe it was around 11 or 12.

Dr. Keckley poked around on me and did whatever else he did during the exam. I was pretty unsure about why we were there so I was nervous and forever self conscious whenever I had to talk to anyone about my size. But I got through the exam okay. After Dr. Keckley finished, he turned to my dad who was in the room with me and said, “Mr. Holliday, we think your daughter might be a giant.”

That’s right, that’s exactly what he said.


This little gem of a statement was followed by a resounding, booming, shrieking moment of stunned silence.

Okay, let’s forgo the play-by-play of what happened next – you can only imagine - and get right to the analysis.

What kind of a country bumpkin, evil spawn of satan, no bed side manner having, Puerto Rican medical school graduate, asshole doctor says, MR. HOLLIDAY, WE THINK YOUR DAUGHTER MIGHT BE A GIANT when said giant eleven year old girl, obviously scared and insecure, is SITTING RIGHT THERE? The man’s license should have been revoked.

As an aside, let me just say that it was also Dr. Keckley who, a couple of years later, was treating me for one of the one million kidney/bladder infections I was plagued with when he told me that some girls get bladder infections if they are sexually active, “…so Lori, ARE YOU A LOOSEY GOOSEY?” A loosey goosey? I was 12! I still wasn’t totally sure what loosey goosies did but I knew it was nothing good. I was so upset about being called a loosey goosey that poor mom had to work extra hard to get me over that one. Primarily because it had taken me so long to recover FROM BEING CALLED A GIANT! The man’s license should have been revoked.

Dr. Keckley scheduled me to go to the hospital to have some x-rays taken of my pituitary gland – the gland in your head that regulates growth hormone – to see how much juice it was producing. That test would confirm his diagnosis. But BEFORE I went in for these tests he begins discussing treatments for giantitis, or whatever it’s called, again right in front of me, where one option is to REMOVE THE MAJORITY OF MY SHIN BONES!

I was reeling. All I processed in my overly active pea brain (which had been reduced to that size thanks to a pituitary glad the apparent size of a grapefruit hogging all the skull space!) was that I was a giant and my legs were getting cut off.

By this point, Dad was pretty irritated by Dr. Keckley’s lack of compassion given that I was sitting right there, so they postponed the conversation until another time and dad took me home where I’m sure he called his bank to open a savings account into which he began depositing the massive amounts of money that my eventual therapy and possible mental institution stay were going to cost.

I went in for the tests. Very scary. I had to have radioactive plutonium (or something very similar I’m sure!) injected into my body so they could get shots of the gland, and they shot the stuff in with a PINT SIZED SYRINGE WITH A THREE INCH NEEDLE into my NECK. I saw that thing coming at me and I just knew I was a gonner. After they pointed the Star Wars looking x-ray gun at my head and got the shots, Dr. Keckley gave me that huge syringe (obviously minus the needle) and I played with if for years afterwards, using it as a water gun.

Well, it turned out that my pituitary gland was just fine and I wasn’t a giant. Just a very tall girl who hit her growth spurt really early. Oops. False alarm. No giantitus. No amputated shins. Just kidding! Sorry folks. Shake it off, kid.

To this day I sort of hope Dr. Keckley burns in the fires of hell forever for making me feel like I was a medical freak of nature, but it was all finally over and things got better.

I still laugh out loud every time I watch King of the Hill and see Hank’s dad, Cotton Hill. Cotton’s shins were shot off in the war, but the doctors were able to reattach his feet to his knees. That’s EXACTLY how I would have looked had the evil Dr. Keckley had his way.

It’s a wonder to me that ANYONE survives the challenges of childhood!


  • At 1/06/2007 , Blogger Anna said...

    It's funny what holds you. I had to read this twice to really read it as the first time I was trying real hard not to be offended by the Puerto Rican comment as I'm half Rican myself. But there. Whew! Not offended. Just a joke, see? Okay. I'm good.

  • At 1/06/2007 , Blogger Emig Family said...

    You MUST write a book. I will buy five copies of it just for myself.

  • At 1/06/2007 , Blogger Lori said...

    I'm really glad you weren't offended, Anna. The Puerto Rican medical school jab was a nod to Dr. Nick on the Simpsons - that's where he attended. But you're right - you never know what's going to hold you but I have nothing but love for the good folks of Puerto Rico. Thanks for reading my stuff. I like reading Anna's Arena, too!

  • At 1/06/2007 , Blogger Lori said...

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1/06/2007 , Blogger Lori said...

    Okay, one more comment and I'll leave it alone. Having reread the sentence I can see how it was interpreted as a Puerto Rican who attended medical school whereas I meant the slam to read more like one who attended a medical school located in Puerto Rico (like Dr. Nick on the Simpsons!). Not much of a difference I suppose, but I certainly wasn't calling out Puerto Ricans as people who couldn't make fine doctors. Just calling out the nonaccredited medical schools. Okay, that's it!

  • At 1/06/2007 , Blogger Anna said...

    I read it how you meant it. I just also happen to have a friend who is a good doctor who attended medical school in Puerto Rico. So I was imagining reading it as him.

    I think it's one of those things that if someone in my family had made the comment it would have been okay, but how dare some white girl say that about our universities! Does that make sense? Not offended. And probably my friend would have laughed at it, too. It's just that line is what I focused on the entire first read until I forced myself to re-read and enjoy for the STORY.

    By the way, I can't even imagine how terrified you must have been hearing about your shins being sawed down!


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