Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash

It happened so fast I didn’t feel a thing

One minute I was 5'8" and then some.

The next, I’m 5'0.”

Honestly. It was painless.

I stood staring at my stats, rather speechless, but no longer surprised.

The Institute of Medicine report estimated 98,000 Americans were dying annually due to medical errors. Estimates of annual patient deaths due to medical errors have since risen steadily to 440,000 lives, which make medical errors the country’s third-leading cause of death.

About a year ago I was seeking help for a urinary issue. I got stuck with an arrogant prick for a doctor. Got scheduled for a procedure. I had very carefully filled out the paperwork, which included what is on my Medicalert bracelet:


I’d already had one nitwit cause me to get c.difficile because of this. Nearly killed me off. You learn to be careful.

So: detailed notes in my clinical records, Medicalert bracelet.

Seconds before Dr. Prick arrived for the procedure, the anesthesiologist and attending nurse are talking near my feet as I lay on the gurney. The anesthesiologist and I had also had a detailed conversation the night before. Same stuff.

He said: “Oh, and Dr. Prick has ordered Keflex and Cipro.”


I came off the gurney screaming bloody murder. Scared the shit out of both of them.

Dr. Prick demanded to see me in his office, surrounded by staff. Threatened to write a complaint letter. Bring it on, I said, it won’t reach the VA as fast as my formal complaint.

Dr. Prick didn’t write the letter. I filed the complaint. Prick.

BTW, turns out I didn’t need his procedure-which he had invented by the way. Give a man a hammer and all he sees is nails. I saw a female urologist, she put me on aloe vera gel caps. Solved the issue. She’s an adventure junkie like me.

Funny how that works, intense chick treats intense chick.

Oh the stories we can tell.

Urgent care was just a bad finger cut. However, nurse Sharon cut eight inches off my height.

And this was during normal times.

The stats calculate my BMI at 25.779. Let’s round that up and call it 26. Let’s not even go into how stupid the BMI is nor how it’s been roundly debunked. The urgent care clinic listed it, so I am discussing it.

To this:

Someone with a BMI of 26 to 27 is about 20 percent overweight, which is generally believed to carry moderate health risks.

My actual BMI based on my actual height and weight, is 19.8.

People whose BMI is 19.8 possess the ideal amount of body weight. You are healthy weight for your height. This “body mass index” is associated with living longest, the lowest incidence of serious illness, as well as being perceived as more physically attractive than people with higher or lower BMI scores. (author bolded. Do I even need to address that stupid final sentence? Don’t get me started.)

My fat content is about 12%.

So John the NP walks in, expecting to see a short, 20 percent overweight old lady of 67.

This is what he sees (okay okay, with my quarantine ten):

Laura Luhn photo of the author.

You get my meaning. He took a step back, consulted his paperwork, stared at me again.

Look, at least John registered me. Most docs don’t bother. I’d have gotten a lecture about weight loss (calories in, calories out, move more, all of which have also been debunked). He might have looked at the cut on my finger, but the only reality was the paperwork.

And the paperwork was wrong.

This is how we die.

Add to this the backbreaking strain of Covid, the caregiver suicides, the PTSD, the lack of PPE, and everything else that our medical community is struggling with. Please. Just.

Tired people do stupid shit. Exhausted, heartbroken, stressed-out folks make terrible, terrible mistakes. And they get sick. Are sick. Dying.

Which leaves fewer and fewer to wage the war to save our lives. Those who are left bear even more of the burden. That is a recipe for disaster.

That’s your mama and your auntie and your abuela in there getting care. Your kids and your babies and brothers. Maybe you.

I was in a slow, neighborhood urgent care facility. Two patients. Quiet afternoon. No ER, no stress, no rush, nice calm, quiet afternoon.

The lovely, friendly nurse sliced inches off my height, which changed everything about how any caregiver would look at my body and give me advice. If they bothered to look up, which many don’t bother to do.

Medical mistakes kill.

How we compare:

The US has the highest per capita healthcare costs and the worst outcomes.

From the article:

In sum, the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world, but Americans continue to live relatively unhealthier and shorter lives than peers in other high-income countries.

And that was before Covid.

And that doesn’t address the uber-competent, incredibly capable, superbly talented folks who don’t make mistakes…until they are just too exhausted to think anymore. Just like the rest of us.

I will leave you to make your own assessments. I get my care primarily from the VA. In that I am fortunate, for otherwise I’d be homeless. Nobody in his right mind would give me health insurance and I wouldn’t be able to afford what’s out there given the cost of meds for my battered body.

That said, for those who wonder why I work out so hard, try to eat so well (skip the almonds, please, at least the chocolate ones) and pass on the donuts…most of the time, this is why.

I can’t trust a perfectly capable, bright nurse, on a quiet afternoon, with nothing else going on, to put in the proper information on my chart. If my condition had been far worse, and if it had been very busy, whoever was working with that chart might have made decisions that could cost me my life.

It has already happened too many times.

The stakes are so high, and they are getting so much higher. Getting and staying healthy, especially as we age, isn’t just about beauty or BMI or bragging rights.

It’s about staying out of American hospitals, ERs and clinics.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hit the trail and see if I can get my eight inches of height back.

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash