Who even needs these physicals?

 “The trouble with being a parent is that by the time you are experienced, you are unemployed.


It was many years ago. I didn’t have my own practice yet and worked for another doctor.   One day I entered the room to see a teenage boy who came for his regular check up. I have never seen this family before. The boy was sitting on a high stool, the mom on a regular chair. Nothing unusual. I started asking the mom about her concerns while looking through the boy’s chart. All she mentioned was his height.

“What about his height?”, I asked. Automatically, I opened his growth chart. Then, the boy stepped down from his high stool… I held my breath: he was very short. Barely 5 feet tall. He was 16 or 17. Even without thorough examination, which later on confirmed my suspicion, I could say that he completed his sexual development. For me, it meant that the growth plates of his long bones closed and he would not grow any more.

The sad part is that it could have been fixed.  Of course, it happens; some people are tall and some are short. A man that is 5 feet tall is a little less than what we would expect.

Let’s go back to his record. He was seen 3 years earlier, was already short for his age, and already started his sexual development. The following 3 years were critical in managing his problem. He was an excellent candidate for the growth hormone treatment. It could give him extra several inches of height.

It was too late by the time I saw him. The mom was devastated and so was I. Was it her fault she wasn’t bringing him for the annual check ups?  Was it a medical office’s fault that they didn’t remind her about it?

No, I don’t accuse her of being a bad parent. She was used to see him that way and didn’t expect him to stop growing earlier than other boys his age.

Dear parents of my patients!

Don’t be annoyed that my staff is reminding you about your child’s check up! It’s not them. It’s me bugging them. I don’t want to find myself in similar situation again. I want you to know that you do everything to keep your children healthy and happy. I want to be able to uncover and fix something that may go unnoticeable to you.

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