The Crazy, Wonderful Things Kids Say: Tales from the Singing Pediatrician

The Crazy, Wonderful Things Kids Say: Tales from the Singing Pediatrician


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"Hey, doctor, I want to tell you something!"

For 54 years, kids have shared with pediatrician Arnold Tanis stories, questions, and bold pronouncements about their childhood worlds. In between treating them, the good doctor wrote many of them down. Three generations of patients offer memorable and downright funny observations and opinions about all sorts of things: shots, school, their brothers and sisters, growing up, and even Dr. Tanis himself and whether he can sing as well as he thinks he does. The parents also chime in, both to complain about all their kids put them through and to celebrate how well they eventually turn out.

A tireless, lifelong advocate of child safety, Dr. Tanis's impact on his patients and their families spans decades. This book is a testament to his career and a memorable glimpse of the warm and sometimes crazy world of a singing pediatrician.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253032492
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 09/25/2017
Pages: 135
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Arnold L. Tanis, MD, FAAP, is cofounder of Pediatric Associates, first established in Hollywood, Florida, in 1957. He entered the University of Chicago at the age of 14. One of the most prominent pediatricians in the state, he served as president of the Florida Pediatric Society from 1986 to 1989.

Read an Excerpt


Tales from the Examining Room

The Singing Doctor

Every doctor has certain peculiarities with which he is associated. I liked to sing in the office, particularly my suture song, which I bellowed out while stitching up a patient.

A fourteen-year-old boy whom I had stitched up three years earlier reappeared in the emergency room. I thoroughly scrubbed my hands and approached the young man. Standing up, he looked directly at me, arms folded, and proclaimed, "Stitching, yes; singing, no!"

Such a hurtful statement. "Ahem," I sniffed, "I sing for myself and not for you." I then began to yodel out, "There was blood on the saddle, and blood all around, and a great big puddle of blood on the ground."

He covered his ears as I sang and stitched him once again.

* * *

Six-year-old Oliver pleaded, "Please don't sing."

"I don't sing for you, but for myself," I replied.

"But I said please," he begged.

Those Awful, Nasty Shots

Children almost universally abhor immunization injections. For that matter, any kind of shot is looked upon with utter disgust and often terrifying fear by the intended recipient. What can a pediatrician do? Just get it done.

"What hurts you?" I asked five-year-old Joseph, a very bright and articulate lad. I want children themselves to tell me what is wrong with them.

Looking suspiciously at me, the young boy replied, "Shots."

* * *

After her physical examination, five-year-old Stephanie announced, "I don't want a shot; it'll hurt."

"No, it really won't," I said confidently.

She was having none of it. "Yes, it will. It'll hurt. I will have a little hole."

* * *

"I hate boosters," twelve-year-old Richard declared. "It's the principle of the thing."

* * *

Walking out of the examining room, Jessica, eleven years of age, looked up at her mother. "I got so many shots," she whispered, "we can play dot to dot."

* * *

"After your shots today," I reassured Tareah, eleven years old, "you won't get another one for a long time."

She folded her arms and stared at me. "Until I am forty-five."

* * *

The brother of thirteen-year-old Timothy taunted him that he had to get a "booboo" (meaning a shot).

Timothy looked at me and shrugged. "I laugh in the face of a booboo."

* * *

"We need hemoglobin from you, Tori," I said to the nearly nine-year-old.

She shook her head vigorously. "I'd rather walk on glass, barefooted, so you can get my blood."

* * *

I offered six-year-old Joshua a profound choice: "We can give you the booster shot between your eyes or in your arm."

"My brain's starting to hurt," he groaned.

* * *

Nine-year-old Chrystal was being teased by her older sister in the examining room. The girls' mother tried to put a stop to it. "Leave Chrystal alone or I'll have Doctor Tanis give you a shot," she warned.

Her oldest daughter rolled her eyes. "Only if it makes me smarter."

* * *

Mrs. R. and her seven-year-old son, Angelo, were seeing me one bright summer morning. "When is he due for his shots?" the mother asked.

"Eleven," I replied casually, making a few more notes.

Angelo suddenly stopped in his tracks and looked up frantically at the clock. "At eleven o'clock?" he gasped.

Well, I guess I should have been more explicit in differentiating between years and hours.

* * *

Deana, a young lady who in three days would celebrate her fifteenth birthday, was in the office complaining of a stomachache. During the course of the examination, I discovered she had inflamed ears. She had been seen two weeks previously for a stomachache and headache. Because of the persistence of the stomachache, I decided to measure her sed (sedimentation) rate.

"Well, please don't ruin this finger, because it still hurts from last time," she complained, holding up the aggrieved digit.

"Well, I wasn't really thinking of the finger ...," I began slowly, looking at her arm.

"No, no, no!" She begged and pleaded until I changed the subject and spoke of the medicine for her ears.

"I hope you have forgotten about the blood," she said, hopefully, a few minutes later.

I smiled. "We old elephants never forget."

"So be a young one and forget," she retorted.

* * *

Six-year-old Mindy came into the office because of an allergic reaction. Her face was swollen and had a fine little papular (elevated) rash similar to prickly heat. Mindy's a good sport but really objects to getting injections. Whenever I see her, she'll ask a dozen times, "Do I have to get a shot, do I have to get a shot, do I have to get a shot?"

This time while I was examining her, she simply looked at me and proclaimed, "My face is not ready for a shot."

* * *

I walked into an examining room for an after-hours visit to see little Shana, four years old, whom I had never treated before. She stared at me, sized me up, and announced, "I don't want a shot."

Leaning out the door, I shouted down the hallway to no one in particular, "She doesn't want a shot!"

Stepping back into the room, I asked, "Is there anything else?"

"Yes," she nodded gravely. "My mommy wants me to go to McDonald's."

* * *

Maria, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a longtime established family in my practice, came in to see me. She had a multitude of complaints: coughing, back and chest pain, and some rectal bleeding a couple of days ago.

After examining her thoroughly, I told her and her mother, "We want to get a chest x-ray to be sure that the pain and the cough isn't anything of a serious consequence. I also want to get a blood count, too, to see if the abdominal pain is of serious origin." The latter meant, of course, taking blood from her arm.

Maria began screaming at her mother, "No, I am not going to have it done! I am not going to have it done!"

"Well, it is important," the mother said soothingly. "You have to have it done, and you will have it done."

"No, I am sixteen, and I don't have to have anything I don't want!" wailed her daughter, now trying to get up and leave.

"You have to have it!" the mother exclaimed.

"I am a hemophiliac," Maria whimpered, settling back down. "You can't do it."

That went nowhere with us. She then made one last, valiant effort.

"Mom, if you love me you won't do it."

Hugging her, her mother murmured, "We are doing it because I love you."

* * *

I examined Shana, a four-year-old young lady, for an upper respiratory tract infection. After I finished, she glared at me, wagged a finger under my nose, and declared, "No pushing needles in!"

* * *

Marc, Todd, and Joshua were in for their complete preschool checkups. It was always quite the annual event, and, as usual, the boy's mother and I had a great time catching up. Mrs. F. confided that Todd's main health concern was an allergy in the morning.

The ten-year-old boy quickly interrupted us. "No, my main concern is getting a shot."

* * *

Jason, a clever fourteen-year-old, was due for a booster as part of his physical examination. He kept staring at the syringe and couldn't stop talking about it as I examined him.

"Are you sure I have to get a shot?"

"Why don't I just come back for it."

"Maybe next year will be a better year."

When we finished the complete physical examination, he walked over and picked up the syringe.

"Don't touch that!" his father admonished him.

"Yes, it's frightfully expensive," I admitted.

Putting it down, Jason looked at us and asked, "Well, then, are you sure you want to waste it on me?"

* * *

Laurie had received a tetanus booster four years ago. Her mother told me that it had taken three people to hold her down.

"Don't be disappointed," I said to the worried daughter. "You don't need a booster now, but you will need it next year."

"It will take more to hold me down," little Laurie promised.

* * *

As they walked into the examining room, Mrs. V. smiled and assured her five-year-old son, Austin, "You don't have to get any shots today."

"Thank you," her little boy solemnly replied. "Shots are my enemies."

* * *

After Robert, at the age of just under five, received his DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus) booster, he complained, "My bone hurts."

As his mother and I tried to reassure him, he interrupted us. "It would be much better with a Slurpee," he said slyly.

The Little Wise Ones

Never underestimate the mental function of your patients, even the quite young ones. Some kids have fantastic imaginations. The wisdom of my little patients never fails to amaze me.

Pointing to his head, nine-year-old Steven explained an important fact to me and his mother: "I can only tell that the brain is there; not if it is being used. It is in geography."

* * *

Six-year-old Alexandra, a second-generation patient, confided to her mother that she loved swimming in the ocean: "Mommy, I think it's part of my spirit."

* * *

Mrs. L. revealed to me the great difference in her children's appetites. Jacqueline was a finicky eater, while five-year-old Alex had a great appetite.

Turning to Alex, I just had to ask. "Is your tummy full?"

"Yeah," he promptly replied, "but I am still hungry in my mouth."

* * *

While I was chatting with his mother, four-year-old Garrett overheard that she had changed her name when she married. He thought about it for a bit.

"Mommy," the little boy eventually asked quietly, tugging at her hand, "what was my name when I was a baby?"

* * *

I was examining Marrinsa, who was three years old. The little lady said she wanted to tell me a secret. I leaned in to listen.

"My nose doesn't work when my eyes are closed," she whispered.

* * *

I asked six-year-old Dillon, "Does anyone in your house smoke?"

He thought for a moment, and then, in one big breath, out flew everything on his mind. "My mom and dad, but my dog doesn't. Can I ask you something? How much do you get paid?"

* * *

One day, in the middle of a routine checkup, seventeen-year-old Jake suddenly sat up and gave me an intense look. "Your life is a piece of art, Doctor," he said, in a serious, low tone. "What you make of the canvas is your doing."

I stared back at him for a long, silent moment. Nodding, he lay back down and we continued.

* * *

I asked five-year-old Emily, "Do you swim?"

"Yes!" she replied enthusiastically, "and I drink water!"

* * *

"When is your birthday?" I asked Richard, a fine young gentleman who was seven years old.

"Every year," he responded quickly, baffled why anyone would ask so obvious a question.

* * *

Five-year-old Jeremiah had come in to see me for a recheck on a laceration of his lip, which had occurred two days ago and had been sewn up by a physician in the emergency room. At the time I saw him, there was redness and some induration, which is a firmness reflecting a secondary infection. Even though I shun the use of antibiotics, there was no alternative this time. Jeremiah became very upset when I told him that because of the infection, he couldn't go to visit his grandmother.

He had calmed down by the time he returned to the office the next day. The little boy proudly announced that he was much better, and indeed he was. I examined his lip; although the swelling persisted, the redness and induration had disappeared.

With a truly inspired, dramatic flourish, I held up my hands and proclaimed, "Oh, my, it is the magic of my hands! I touched you yesterday and now you are so much better!"

Pausing respectfully for a moment, he looked up at me and shook his head sorrowfully. "No, it's the medicine."

* * *

Genevieve, a four-year-old, sat in the room as I examined her young brother, Carlos. "Doctor Tanis," she asked, tugging at my lab coat, "can I have some water?"

"Let me finish examining your brother first," I replied, not looking at her, "then we will get you some water."

The second I concluded the examination, little Genevieve jumped up and stood in front of me, hands on hips. "Now," she said firmly, "let's talk with water."

* * *

And then there was the time I insulted a doll, not once, but twice.

When I had examined little Robin, she clutched her Cabbage Patch doll. I remember making a little teasing remark about it being the ugliest-looking thing I had ever seen — which it indeed was. When she returned a few days later, her mother took me aside and said that her child had been in tears in the car because I had insulted her baby. So, after apologizing to Robin, this time I examined the doll along with her.

Five months later, she returned with an ear infection, still carrying that ugly Cabbage Patch doll. She insisted during the examination that I weigh the doll. I adjusted the scale and did just that — 1 pound, 1 ½ ounces.

Handing the doll back to her, I frowned and complained, "What am I doing this for? I went to medical school, I had an internship, I took a residency, and I'm the former chief of staff of the hospital."

She paused for a moment and gave me an unreadable look. "I beg your pardon?" she finally inquired, drawing her baby close.

* * *

Young Miss Robin, age seven, came to see me because she had a fever. Her fever was not as important to her as was the fact that it might get in the way of her evening plans with two friends — going out for dinner and then sleeping over. More excitement awaited her the next day, when she was to help host an ice-skating party for twenty young friends and their parents.

I examined her. Her throat was red, but the quick ten-minute strep culture test fortunately was negative. I concluded that she most likely had a virus that would take care of itself.

What to do about her big plans? I have preached for decades not to expose healthy children to someone who has an infection. I would not have sent her to school, but there are sometimes mitigating circumstances when one has to yield and bend.

In order to have Miss Robin comprehend my feelings, I asked her if she liked her two girlfriends.

"Oh, yes," she replied, "very much, because I've known them all year long at school."

Well, then, did she want to give them a fever and an infection?

Her response was immediate: "Oh, absolutely not!"

Having made my point, I cautioned her to be careful making physical contact with them and to turn her head the other way when coughing or near them.

Nodding thoughtfully, the seven-year-old paused and looked at me. "This is a test," she began, speaking slowly and softly. "In case I don't do it right, I know I'll never be able to entertain my friends again."

Her profound statement surprised me; even more so as she continued speaking. "My dream came true. I asked God, and I begged God to allow me to have my friends over and my party. He heard me, he listened."

And with that, she left, head held high.

* * *

I was about to enter an examining room to see a patient when I overheard a little girl chatting in another room. She asked, "Why did the cat cross the street?"

I popped my head in the door. "To get to the other side," I blurted out.

Jumping up, she put her hands on her hips and glared. "I didn't say a chicken!" she retorted.

* * *

While in the waiting room, David, age five and a half years, spied a little child and offered an insight born of rich experience: "You're wearing one of those saggy diapers that leak."

* * *

An older patient, Paul, now twenty-three, came in with a laceration in his foot and possibly glass in it. Gently searching for the glass, I decided to philosophize a bit to the young man.

"Life isn't easy, Paul."

My patient sighed. "It's easy, Doctor," he muttered, "just not cheap."

* * *

I had seen Jennifer, five years of age, because of a fever, sore throat, and a recheck of an ear infection. When she returned after her medication ran out, she and her younger sister asked very alert and pertinent questions, which I tried to field with intelligent answers. Impressed with both of them, I looked at their mother and began, "These girls are ..."

At which point Jennifer chirped up: "Terrific?"

* * *

I walked into the examining room to see little Thomas, a boy of two and a half years. He immediately jumped up and announced, "Mom, I'm going to the bathroom; you sit and talk to Doctor Tanis."

* * *

Six-year-old Heather and her father were waiting for me in the examining room. Spying a urine sample on the table, I picked it up as if to drink it and asked, as I usually do, "Heather, is this orange juice?" When she giggled, her father chortled, "Well, it used to be."


Excerpted from "The Crazy, Wonderful Things Kids Say"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Arnold L. Tanis.
Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Preface (Edward J. Saltzman)
Tales from the Examining Room
The Singing Doctor
Those Awful Nasty Shots
The Little Wise Ones
Little Patients with Little Patience
The Joys of School
Brothers and Sisters
Through the Generations
The Good Doctor
The Poor Parents
Taking Good Care
Growing Up
Practicing Pediatrics
Farewell (Elizabeth M. Tanis)
Looking Back—and Forward

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