Spawn of Big Head
I took Adelaide to see the doctor a while back. She needed a physical for day care, which I'm sure is required by the licensing body of Iowa child care facilities or something, but still seemed kind of ridiculous to me. On the other hand, thanks to my giant and shiny health care benefit, it was free, and we thought it'd be a good thing to get Adelaide "in the system", healthcare-wise.
Plus, I've always kind of enjoyed well-visits with Adelaide (especially those that don't involve injections). She's very easy-going about being poked and prodded, all the nurses and doctors get to praise her for being healthy and smart, and a lot of that praise gets reflected back upon me and my genes.
It was different, here in the "big city". The first and most obvious difference was that we were seeing a pediatrician. Both of Adelaide's doctors in Vermillion were family doctors, one of them helped deliver her, both of them went to our church, and both knew our family from school, work, and the community theater. They liked us and were very easy-going in the office. The pediatrician that saw Adelaide here, on the other hand, was very serious about ferreting out illness, starting with Adelaide's growth chart: 37th percentile for weight, 69th for height, and 97th+ for head circumference. She's been skinny, tallish, and large-headed at every checkup since she came into this world, I assured the pediatrician, but the doctor wanted to know more:
Doctor: Has her head always been above the 95th percentile?
Me: Um, no, I don't think so. Sometimes it's more like 90th, and sometimes it's higher. I think it depends on how the nurse wraps the tape around her head.
Doctor: Has she ever had any imaging done on her head? For instance an ultrasound?
Doctor: Has anyone ever been concerned about her development?
Doctor: Do big heads run in the family?
Me: Well... I'm not sure. My dad has a pretty big head.
Doctor: And how about you? Do you have a big head?
Me: Hmm... maybe. I mean, I don't know where I'm at compared to the average, but when I look in the mirror, sometimes I think, "Wow that's a big head."
Doctor: And as a child? Were you big-headed?
Me: I don't remember any doctor mentioning it, but there was a kid who used to call me 'Toe-head' because he thought my head looked like a big toe. And in kindergarten they had this song they'd sing that went something like "Joel is a mole with a big fat bowl", which I always took as making fun of my head.
Doctor: Do you have trouble finding hats that fit?
Me: No! Oh, well, yeah. My wife bought me a school baseball cap when I matched here, and when I told her that it was a little tight; she said it was the biggest one in the store. And in high school we did My Fair Lady, and I was Professor Henry Higgins? And in the first scene the costumer had this great hat for me to wear, but it was too small, so I wound up with a lame one.
Doctor: [Nods. Types something about "big head" in the computer.]
No praise was reflected upon me and my genes. To the contrary, I had clearly passed down to Adelaide the curse of my giant cranium. As the pediatrician struck "big head" indelibly into Adelaide's medical record, a diagnosis that will follow her for the rest of her life, I imagined her fate. Already we sometimes struggle to find a shirt with an adequate neck hole, but what indignities will she suffer in the future? Despite her excellent audition for the class play, she'll be cast as Humpty Dumpty. When Adelaide goes to college, her freshman roommate will remark on how much space her giant pillows require. She, too, will have trouble finding hats.
As the doctor turned back to Adelaide, I desperately tried to salvage the situation:
Me: Still, she doesn't look... you don't think her head looks disproportionate, do you?
Doctor: No, I suppose not.
As a coda to an already long entry, a few words about professionalism. I struggled writing this entry because I am, subtly, criticizing one of my colleagues at my institution. While I haven't mentioned them by name (or indicated gender), and on this page I don't identify where we're living, someone with access to Adelaide's electronic record could figure out who I'm talking about. It would, of course, be unethical (and grounds for termination) for them to do so, but it's still possible.
Doctors are like office workers anywhere: they occasionally indulge in bashing each other. I've often felt that doctor-on-doctor bashing is an unprofessional habit, especially when it's done publicly (it's in all of our best interests that patients trust doctors, isn't it?), so let me emphasize (and get myself off the hook) that I'm criticizing my colleague as a patient reacting to their poor interpersonal skills. My colleague was perfectly appropriate as a clinician conducting a well-child exam. Kind of a pinhead, though, if you know what I mean.