In Her Words
He’ll Never Be a Giant
Weighing the pros and cons of growth hormones
My son is never going to be a tall boy.
Even before Alex was born, I’d watch the ultrasound as my perinatologist measured the long bones of the tiny active fetus on the dark screen. She would always preface her observations with, “Now, you and your husband aren’t tall people, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that your son’s bones are a little shorter than normal.” Then she’d smile.
“There’s nothing to worry about.”
The fact is, my son isn’t even 3 years old yet, and I’m already worried.
I’m worried that his height and weight percentiles will someday be off the charts. That he will get picked on in the school yard by bigger, stronger kids, and girls won’t want to go out with him because he’s too short. And that he’ll miss out on job opportunities.
Researchers claim that height can get you farther up the career ladder. Last year, a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index study concluded that taller people were more satisfied with their lives and less likely to report negative emotions like anger, sadness and stress.
In my bare feet, I’m about four feet 10 inches tall. My husband is only five feet two inches tall. Together, our gene pool offers very little hope for Alex’s ever becoming an NFL star. And that’s when I start thinking about alternatives that could possibly give my son a “leg up” in life, so to speak.
Norditropin, for example, is a common growth hormone that’s injected daily to help young children grow several inches taller than they normally would, if nature were allowed to take its course.
I’ve known other parents who have administered Norditropin to their children. Supposedly, it’s been used for years and is safe. But even with these reassurances, the idea of injecting a growth hormone into my son’s arm daily for several years makes me uneasy.
It seems like a cop-out. At best, it makes me feel like a coward, that I have little faith in my son’s ability to cope with everyday pressures. And in my darkest thoughts, I wonder if playing Frankenstein with Alex’s health is even fair. Or safe.
Drugs.com does warn of potential side effects, such as bone pain, headache, increased sweating, mild flulike symptoms and swelling. More severe side effects may include allergic reactions, nausea and vomiting, and other symptoms.
Whenever I see those studies undermining the success of short people, I have to think about all of the vertically challenged people who have proved those findings wrong: Robert Reich, Dudley Moore, Paul Simon, Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski – who is about the same height as I am.
When the time comes to consider a medical solution, it’s possible that I may not even have a choice in the matter. My insurance could reject coverage of Norditropin, and it might be too expensive for us to pay for it out of pocket. If that does happen, it may be a relief.
Pediatricians have remarked on how strong my son’s grip is. I see how strong-willed and tough he is, even at the tender age of 2. Maybe I should just stop worrying and let my son grow at his own pace.
Jennifer Lubell is a health-care reporter in Washington, D.C., and mom to 2-year-old Alex.