A Surprise at the Doctor’s Office

Following our move, I have been getting set up with a new set of doctors in Sarasota. Yesterday I had my “get to know you” appointment with my new primary care doctor. He went to medical school at the University of Nebraska. They are in the Big Ten now, so I figured we would hit it off. I guessed that he would be young. He joined the Sarasota Memorial practice in 2018, after completing his residency.

Doctor S. knocked at the exam room door and came in the room. He looked younger than my children, but at least he had facial hair. He settled himself in front of the computer screen and keyboard and began going through my new patient questionnaire. He had to enter the information into the template of the electronic medical record. He went through my medical history. A medical assistant had taken my blood pressure and weighed me. The doctor looked into my ears and mouth, and listened to my breathing.

After the brief exam, Doctor S. sat back and told me that everything looked pretty good. They would monitor my cholesterol. I wasn’t due for a colonoscopy until next year. My vaccines were up to date. The only thing he was going to put on the problem list was, “obesity”. I paused and looked over at him. “Obesity?”

Doctor S. proceeded to explain the Body Mass Index System (BMI) and how it did a calculation based on your height and weight. The results would classify you as underweight, healthy, overweight, or obese. He calmly reported that my results put me in the obese category. I was shocked. I was embarrassed. How could I not have noticed that I had become obese? I wanted to challenge him, but I felt overwhelmed. I meekly asked, “How much did I weigh?” He looked at the screen and replied, “163”. Wow, I didn’t remember ever weighing that much, so maybe he was right.

I left the office holding a sheet of paper I was to take to the lab for a blood draw. They test lots of different things in the blood to make sure the patient is healthy. On the paper, in black and white, it said, “Diagnosis: obesity, unspecified”. I imagined that now I would always carry that label.

Rachel listened to me that evening and did her best to console me. Then she powered up her computer and did a Google-search for BMI. Rachel entered my height and weight into a BMI calculator. Low and behold, it came up with a BMI of 23. That was right in the middle of the healthy category. I felt my anxiety reduce. Maybe there had been some kind of mistake.

The next morning I set up a “patient portal” on the hospital’s website. I could now review my records and communicate with my doctor via email. I took a look at the report from my visit with Doctor S. There it was. “Weight: 163. Height: 60 inches”. I did a quick calculation. I was taller than 60 inches. By gosh, I was at least 70 inches! That must be the cause of the confusion, a simple data entry error. I sent Doctor S. a message, alerting him to the error. The site says that I will get a response within three days. Until then, I guess I’ll just have to live with my new label.

So it goes.

I looked for an appropriate picture to go with this story. I didn’t find a good one of me, but I did find one that seemed to fit the topic of Body Mass Index. I took the photo at a naked bike ride in Seattle a few years ago. Thanks, brother John!


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