Dr. Wilkins flipped through the chart. “Hmmm,” he said.
The nurse looked up. “Oh, are you looking at the chart for the next patient? It’s a bit strange. I feel bad for the poor kid.”
“He’s thirteen? It looks like he’s otherwise healthy,” the doctor said. “I don’t think he’ll suffer from any complications.”
“Well,” the nurse said, standing up and pushing in her chair. “It’s just that he’s already rather short.”
“His parents are below average in height, so statistically speaking, that’s to be expected,” Dr. Wilkins said.
“I guess so,” the nurse said.
The doctor closed the chart with a snap. “It’s an unusual condition, but it seems fairly straightforward.”
He followed the nurse down the hall to the exam room. He knocked on the door. “Come in,” someone said. The voice cracked on the second word. Dr. Wilkins assumed it was his patient speaking.
Dr. Wilkins opened the door and managed not to blink in surprise. The young man was quite short for thirteen years old. This was definitely a growth spurt gone wrong. He smiled. “Jeremy?” he asked. “Jeremy Hart?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Jeremy said. His voice cracked again.
Dr. Wilkins turned to the woman trying to feed crackers to a preschooler. “Are you Jeremy’s mother?”
“Yes,” the woman said. The preschooler used the moment of inattention to pour the crackers out of the bag. She started to stomp on them.
The doctor crouched down in front of the preschooler. “And who are you?”
“Mandy,” the child said. Her hand darted towards his stethoscope.
Dr. Wilkins leaned back and stood up. “That’s my stethoscope.” He held it up. “I’m going to use it to check on Jeremy. Shall we see if we can make him feel better?”
“No,” Mandy said. “I want it.”
“Amanda Francis,” Mrs. Hart said.
“I want it,” Mandy said.
“Do you need a time out?” Mrs. Hart asked.
“Can I have a cookie?” Mandy asked.
“If you’re good,” Mrs. Hart said.
“Okay. But I want a sprinkle cookie,” Mandy said. She went back to stomping on the cracker crumbs.
Dr. Wilkins turned back to Jeremy. “So, when did you first notice that you were shorter?”
“Three days ago,” Jeremy said. His voice was steady. “When I woke up and stood up, things looked different. Mom measured me and said I was five inches shorter. So, she called for an appointment.” He stretched the hem of his shirt between his hands.
“Well done,” Dr. Wilkins said. “Let’s just look at your throat.” He picked up a tongue depressor. “Say aah.” He checked Jeremy’s throat, and then his heart and lungs. Everything looked normal.
“Me next,” Mandy said.
Dr. Wilkins checked Mandy’s throat with a tongue depressor. When he finished, Mandy held out her hand. “Mine,” she said. He handed her the tongue depressor. She turned her back on him and used it to stir the cracker crumbs.
“Do you know what’s wrong with him?” Mrs. Hart asked.
“It looks like his growth spurt went a little wrong.” Dr. Wilkins smiled. “It’s unusual, but it does happen. According to the measurements the nurse took, he’s four and a half inches shorter than the last time he came in.”
“Is it reversible?” Mrs. Hart asked.
“Well, it’s a lot of height to lose, but it can be reversed and he can even continue with his original growth arc. Unfortunately, this will only happen if Jeremy is diligent with his treatment plan.”
“Of course I will,” Jeremy said. His voice squeaked.
“You will need to walk around on your hands for at least a month. Two would be better,” Dr. Wilkins said.
Jeremy frowned. “I can’t stand on my head without falling over. How will I walk on my hands?”
Dr. Wilkins smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll prescribe a set of reverse crutches for you. It will take some practice, and your arms will certainly be sore, but you can do it.”
Mandy whirled around and stomped her foot. “I want verser crutches too.”
“I’m sorry, Mandy,” the doctor said. “These are just for Jeremy, to help him get better.”
Mandy screeched and broke the tongue depressor in half and threw the pieces at him. Mrs. Hart looked horrified. “I am so sorry, Dr. Wilkins,” she said.
“It’s quite all right,” he said. He wrote out the prescription and held it out. “Here you go,” he said. “We’ll see you again in two months. Make an appointment at the front desk.”
“Thank you doctor,” Mrs. Hart said. She stood up and began to gather her things. Mandy was still screeching and kicking cracker crumbs around the room.
“I hope that you are much taller when I see you next, Jeremy,” Dr. Wilkins said.
“Me too,” Jeremy said.
Dr. Wilkins shook hands with Jeremy and Mrs. Hart. Mandy was scowling at him, so he just smiled and waved at her. After they left, he had a few minutes to update the chart. The nurse threw away the pieces of tongue depressor and looked at the scattered crumbs. “I’ll go get a broom,” she said.