Katie has become fascinated by doctors, illnesses, and virtually anything else that is medical in nature. For instance, some time back, she found an old stethoscope (leftover from a blood pressure monitoring kit) in a drawer and instantly started trying to hear her heartbeat – or “beep” as she calls it. Well I’m not sure that she ever actually heard her heart beep, but she was delighted to find that she could hear “guzzling” sounds coming from her stomach. I explained that the noise was possibly her stomach growling and could indicate that she was hungry. She listened with rapt interest as if I might have been explaining the origin of the universe or why eight year old boys act so silly sometimes, and she took it all to heart. Ever since then, from time to time, she’ll say something like “I think I’m hungry”, and she’ll run grab the stethoscope. She’ll then proceed to listen to various spots on her tummy, after which she’ll look up with a very satisfied expression and say, “Yes, I’m really hungry. Think I’ll go pop some popcorn.”
However, serious self-examination of her gastro-intestinal system are not the extent of Katie’s medical interest. She also like to play doctor. She began her medical career simply as Dr. Katie, but now she routinely introduces herself as Dr. Quack from Rutherfordton – a small town in western NC that is notorious for the pitiful, if not criminal, quality of heath care available there – and then after a quick examination, she proceeds to find you guilty of one or more of her favorite maladies. Perhaps your heart has stopped beeping, you have loose eyelashes, or you’ve been eating too many snot buggers, although it’s hard to guess just what the right number might be of the latter. But regardless of the ailment, the treatment is always the same – a shot – administered with whatever medical device she can get her little hands on – an ink pen, door key, hair brush, or some other such instrument. And as part of her bedside manner and ostensibly to reassure her patient that it really is only a game, just before the injection, she always smiles and whispers “Don’t forget to pretend to cry.” Then the following moment, you discover once again that both the warning and the pretence are unnecessary, and you listen, as though far away, while she reminds you that your next stop should be at the scooter store (and it won’t cost you a penny out of pocket).
As much fun as Dr. Quack’s house calls are, I expect that sooner or later it will come to an end. She’ll learn of ulcers, yeast infections, and hemorrhoids, and then the magic of her examinations and treatments will be gone. But I don’t think the same can be said of her general interest in medical matters. There’s just too much to whet her appetite – grandparents with health issues ranging from prosthetic limbs to osteoporosis, my own high blood pressure and hypo-thyroidism, and an endless list of friends and teachers absent from school due to one disease or another. Of course, we get all the gory details everyday in Katie’s after-school report, but lately it seems that she’s getting harder to impress. Just yesterday afternoon she confided to me in disgust, “Luke was out yesterday, but he just had a stomach ache, but you remember Daniel? He was out today - with a temperature of 285 degrees. Now he was sick.” Given the facts of the case, I had no choice but to concur.