Using Car Talk Get's a Better Baby Check-up
When the Doctor is a Car Nut
son's pediatrician lives a few blocks away from us in a five-bedroom,
three-and-a-half bath house. A giant, amoebic pool highlights
his perfectly landscaped Chinese garden.
you need to put things in
carspeak to be heard.
Ackley is a real sports-car freak. He alternates trips to
the office in a sleek, black Porsche and a cherry-red Alfa
Romeo. His yellow DeTomaso Pantera sees sunshine only on the
weekends. Rumor has it his wife Alice finally caught the car
bug and soon will be seen in a white Jaguar.
Ackley can be found perched over the hood of one of his automotive
babies every Sunday afternoon with a wrench clenched between
his teeth. I once saw him washing the Alfa at 8 a.m. At 4
p.m., he was just getting around to polishing the hubcaps.
His classic sports cars certainly seem to get more attention
than my one year old baby does when we go in for one of our
"Well Baby" checkups. If my son were composed of
a steel chassis and could race up to 140 miles per hour, maybe we'd rate,
s a real bone of contention with me, these Jiffy-Lube-style
baby visits. I'd like to see Ackley's face if his mechanic
gave the Porsche a perfunctory seven-minute once over, then
demanded an exorbitant sum. That's how I view our Well Baby
this jaded perspective, I arrived at the good doctor's office
for D.J.'s milestone one-year checkup. Bonnie, the nurse,
weighed and measured D.J., and jabbed him with a TB test.
Dr. Ackley strolled in a few minutes later, and majestically
parting my sons flailing arms and legs, examined his mouth,
ears, and nose in less time than it takes to unscrew an oil
saw you working on your Porsche last Sunday," I offered,
a lame attempt at starting conversation.
there's always something that needs tuning up or fixing,"
he politely replied, wiggling off his examination stool and
heading toward the door. "You can dress him now. I'll
be back in a minute to answer any questions you may have,"
dangled a rattle in front of D.J. to distract him and remembered
Dr. Ackley's comment about the car always needing tuning up
had an idea.
Ackley came back into the room, leaned on the counter, and
made notes on a clipboard. "Was there anything else you
needed to ask, Mrs. Foyil?" he murmured while jotting
down some notes. (Translation: There's nothing wrong with
your child, don't take up my time if you don't have to, and
aren't I about to make some big bucks from this visit?) But
it wasn't going to be so simple this time.
seems okay, Dr. Ackley, but D.J. has been giving off some
pretty foul emissions lately." I winked at the squirming
baby on my lap and pretended not to notice Ackley spinning
a 180 at the sink. He stopped writing and peered at me from
behind cocked eyebrows. "Foul emissions, you say?"
He sat back down, smiling. "From your son?" He was
toying with his stethoscope.
emissions," I repeated, gazing up at him seriously.
think they may be a problem with his exhaust system?"
He was either playing along nicely, or maybe I had really
succeeded in gaining his attention for once.
exactly, doctor. I guess I was just wondering if maybe I'm
not putting in the right type of fuel, if you know what I
mean. Could that be what's causing the pollution?"
laid down the clipboard on the counter and loosened his jacket.
"Excess apple juice could be the culprit."
tie my tubes," I said, "I never thought of that,
doctor. Thanks a lot," I continued. "Uh, also, I
sometimes find he starts a bit sluggishly first thing in the
morning. He kind of hesitates on acceleration and stalls frequently."
I was on a roll.
may need to adjust his vitamin level. Or it could be as simple
as checking his resting schedule and putting him into Park
earlier in the night."
him into Park earlier; hmmm," I nodded. "Err...what
can I do about a transmission that overheats in hot weather;
a sort of cooling system malfunction?" I could see the
grease-monkey in him coming through the medical professional
exterior. Wouldn't this guy just love to trade in his lab
coat for some blue overalls at this moment? I was giving him
a great gift this day — escape. He no longer was simply James
Ackley III, pediatrician, stuck in a buttercup-yellow examination
room looking over his 23rd child of the day. The was Jim Ackley,
mechanic supreme, inside his well-equipped garage, tinkering
with his beloved cars.
he said, sitting back down, rubbing his chin thoughtfully "Overheating is unavoidable in the average
crawler/early walker, Mrs. Foyil, especially in the summer.
I suggest you go with the flow — no pun intended — and try to
replace his fluids regularly. Simply allowing for extra coolant
in the form of water should help."
already were 10 minutes into the visit. Dr. Ackley was mine — hook,
line, and shifter. "How about those buzzing and whining
noises? And that loud chattering?
shook his head emphatically. "Those whining noises aren't
unusual in the one to three year old models, The problem
may lessen with age."
he has an uncomfortable seat," I reported.
rash," he replied, shaking his head as if
I had left wax on the Alfa too long. "Jack up the rear
chassis. Check the area for water leakage. Adjust the diaper
accordingly." I nodded my head. "Next, wipe the
rear surface, thoroughly removing all deposits. Finish with
lubricant. The output shaft should be examined carefully several
times each day and thoroughly lubricated."
was so caught up in our little diversion that he didn't see
the flashing red light on the wall warning him that 16 other
patients were awaiting his attention. "How about slippage?"
I threw in, not wanting to lose the momentum. "Slippage,
er, uh," he stumbled, scratching his ear. "Wait,
I know! Rubber-soled booties provide better tread on slippery
threw another one at him. Another two minutes and I would
have reached the all-time record for length of a Well Baby
checkup. "Sometimes he stalls in reverse; he even appears
out of alignment."
He pointed an admonishing finger. "Give the
kid a break, Mrs. Foyil. He'll adapt to an even cruising speed
before you know it."
that's not what I mean, Dr. Ackley. See, he's still in four-wheel
drive," I admitted, rather defensively.
walking yet, huh? Not to worry. That's not unusual at all
for his age. Just give him a few weeks or months, and he'll
be racing around the track," said Dr. Ackley.
sighed with relief. It was nearly lunch time, I still had
a number of errands to run, and D.J. would be needing his
afternoon nap. Dr. Ackley must have seen me stall. "Mrs.
Foyil," he said, "I'm happy to report that your
son is in mint condition." He rubbed his stethoscope
methodically and leaned forward to lay a fatherly hand upon
my shoulder. "But you look as if you could use an overhaul
yourself." My God, this man was reading me like an owner's
know," I confided with a sigh, "on most days I just
run out of gas by mid-day." He patted me a bit too patronizingly
on the same shoulder, then rose to stand by the door.
wife said the same thing when she left her job and stayed
home full time with our daughter."
threw my son over one shoulder, my diaper bag/pocketbook over
the other, and headed for the receptionist to pay the bill.
There was a hand-penned note on the bottom of my standard
receipt that Dr. Ackley must have just scribbled. "Children
are indeed a lot like cars, Mrs. Foyil. No warranties, lots
of checkups, and no such thing as maintenance free!"