HOUSTON --Dr. Jennifer Arnold never expected to be famous. But the Houston physician, who is 3 feet 2 inches tall, can't go to the grocery store, without being swarmed by her fans. She has her own national TV show. And she has another group of fans, parents grateful to her for taking care of their critically ill babies. Dr. Arnold can't reach most of the buttons in an elevator. At 3 feet 2 inches tall, she can't reach sinks or counters. "If I got frustrated every time I couldn't reach something, then I would spend 90 percent of my day frustrated, and that's no fun, so you just sort of find a way to make things work," she said. She's a neonatologist at Texas Children's Hospital, keeping the sickest, most premature babies alive. Arnold always wanted to be a doctor. "It was my dream to go to Johns Hopkins because I had been a patient there for most of my childhood," she said. She's had 27 orthopedic surgeries on her legs and spine. "Cause otherwise, I would be in a wheelchair right now or may not even be alive," Dr. Arnold said. She lives with joint pain and arthritis, which bother her more than being a little person in a big hospital. "Once I'm on a step stool, I can do everything I need to do," she said. Her step stool is a great equalizer. From it she directs the medical teams, teaches Baylor doctors and reassures worried parents. Gregory and Francine Wright were surprised they recognized their baby's doctor. "We saw her coming and I kinda tapped my wife on the shoulder and was like, that's her," Gregory Wright said. They are regular viewers of her national TV show. Dr. Arnold and her husband, Bill Klein, are "The Little Couple," a show that airs weekly on TLC. "I've had kids just tear up when they seem me, which is unbelievable to me," she said. "It's definitely a bit of a surprise no matter how much somebody says well, you know, it comes with the territory," Klein said. Fan mail arrives from around the world. Their show is in Year Three and is in negotiation for Year Four. Klein owns his own business and oversees the construction of their new house, which is being built for their height. "The world is not made for someone who's three to four feet tall, but there are ways to sort of overcome and deal with that," Dr. Arnold said. Now they're trying to have a baby and they're remarkably candid about the fertility treatments and their need for a surrogate. "I think it's good for people to hopefully see what that's like," Arnold said. Arnold and Klein have average-sized parents. Genetically, their baby could be average sized or a little person. "I don't think for us it matters whether or not they're a little person or not," Arnold said. "We just want a healthy baby." And they want to adopt too. "I've always dreamed of adopting a little person," she said. When Arnold applied to medical schools as a little person, there were many skeptics. But she's turned the doubters into fans. Now, when families of sick children see her, they see compassion. "I feel better now knowing she's my doctor," Francine Wright said. Her patients' parents see courage. "I try to be realistic in my limitations, but I don't let them hinder me from things that I think I can or want to do," Arnold said. They also see humanity at its best.
November 18, 2010 8:47:17 PM PST