Reflections of a Foot Care Professional

True story. My first week on the job, back in early 1988, an elderly gentleman walking with a cane came into the clinic and sat down with his wife. I introduced myself and asked how I could help him. He promptly removed his left lower leg and handed it to me, saying with a curt and abrasive tone

 “I need shoes to fit this.”

Working in the back room, out of sight of the client, I broke into a mild sweat as I struggled to remove the existing shoe from the prosthesis and fought to fit the leg into the new shoe. Cursing and laughing at the same time, I wrestled for what seemed an eternity as the leg flipped, banged and slid around, falling to the floor several times from the work bench before I was able to casually(or so I pretended) bring it back out for his inspection.

Ahh, the humble beginnings of a future pedorthist.

What a strange and beautiful profession pedorthics is.

On the one hand, I steel myself to react professionally, when in reality, I am tempted to run from the gnarly and near psyche-destroying vision of something akin to the Crypt Keeper’s feet, which she calmly releases from each tomb-like, ill-fitting, mangled and horrifyingly rank smelling sarcophagus for a shoe, ironically named something that conjures up the opposite image, Munro. But I don’t run away.

I approach the older gentleman who I instantly like, with open, sincere compassion and concern, while secretly doing mental cartwheels at the prospect of treating such a challenging, complicated and profitable misfortune of having been run over by a tow motor some 25 years ago. The compassion wins out and the gentleman walks from my clinic in comfort.

I feign surprise and yet with true concern, stifle a yawn, when the factory worker describes how his heels feel like someone is driving red hot pokers into the bottoms of them when he first gets out of bed. With well rehearsed authority in my voice, I address him with “It’s known as plantar fasciitis and I can help you.” The exercise advice and foot orthotics I fit him with immediately reduce his pain.

Yet how can I forget the moment when I fit the young man, who lost all the toes of both his feet to frostbite, with rigid rockered footwear and orthotics that make him exclaim with raw emotional ecstasy as he walks the hallway of my office, that I “have given him his toes back.” I am truly moved by this moment.

These are true examples in a long line of unforgettable and irreplaceable moments of learning and character building in my career as a pedorthist, and frankly, as a person. I absolutely love what I do and daily, I embrace the opportunity to practice a truly wonderful profession.