A Hard Week

I have a few hours to grab my breath before packing up for my next Life Hope Clinic. This clinic is in Clovis, California, at the Hmong Adventist Church on Sunday. I will have my favorite intern, friend, and help mate Nesja Krigbaum. Yay!

We expect to serve between 30-40 patients this Sunday. I’m hoping I have enough supplies. I want to thank my alumni family once again for stepping up to help me serve the underserved. Deborah Nelson is sponsoring a senior to receive several months of free foot care. I will stretch this care over 6 months! Six months of free diabetic care, paid for.

When I called this patient, she immediately began to sob. Why? “I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’ve never won anything before.” She went on to explain that she had heard about me from others. That I do free foot care at clinics. She said, “I don’t have any talents to give, so I just give what I can to my church each week by giving bible lessons.” She said, “You, Paula are so gifted and talented.”

I chuckled. “Well,” I said, “I work on feet all day. By my high school classmates’ standards, I’m at the bottom of success. Many of my friends are pilots, lawyers, doctors, nurses, judges. But that’s okay,” I said. “I love my work and I do my part. It all adds up if we each do our part. Someone has to take out the garbage and I’m okay with my work.”

She laughed…then cried some more .

We never really think about our feet until, well, they hurt or something goes wrong. I think my greatest satisfaction among my patients is the success stories. One of my patients is a police chief, retired just this past year. Debris and small amount of white fungus. He has been treated for 15 years by his doctor for his chronic nail problems. His doctor, in frustration, advised him to soak his feet in bleach. Yes, read that again. He did and without success but with skin damage and so he sought me out. Frankly, I wasn’t sure at first. You don’t want to tell a patient that his doctor is a big dope. My ears are still ringing from an email where I was told that I need to understand and accept that all doctors are at the top of the food chain in America.

I cleaned him up and had to remove most of his big nails. Two months later, after a good cleaning and reductions and my suggested therapeutic soak, he had beautiful nails growing again. As he said yesterday, “I’m a Paula believer now!” Hey, that would make a great t-shirt…but I’m getting sided tracked.

Success comes with passion. I’m not trying to sign up every pair of feet on the planet to work on. What I am trying to do is educate on the need of good foot care and to inspire as many people as I can to do foot care as a new career.

I get asked often about how or why I started doing feet for a living. As I tell my story while drilling away, people are amazed that there are not more people like me. When I researched my new career, the CDC projected a growth of 16% in the next few years in any occupation that has to do with foot care. The staggering rate of diabetes and obesity has created job security. And the fact that routine foot care has been taken out of insurance coverage for all seniors and uninsured has also created a huge gap in care.

It’s patients like the above and my work with the homeless and other free clinics that give me great job satisfaction. The stress and strain of knocking on door after door begging for an internship is very discouraging. If I had an RN after my name, I could just sign up and take and online course in foot care! It’s kind of like me signing up to be a nurse by taking an online course in shot giving.

As I prepare for my weekend clinic, I have to remind myself of two things. The first is that the line will never end. And the second is quality or quantity. The second is key. I make sure I touch and hold each patient’s feet in my hands while talking to them. Feet are gross to most people. And I even had people say to me, “How can you touch my feet? They are so gross!”

By touching, stopping, and listening to each patient, you gain trust and you validate them as a person. You validate their pain. You validate their need for care. I treat every patient the same. Money, no money, smell, no smell (which is rare), feet are feet. They tell the story of the person they belong to.

Yes, it’s been a sad and painful week at my little foot care office in cowboy capital of America. But I looking forward to helping others this weekend.

Finally, if you are a healthcare worker, provider, MD especially, if you have any contacts with a podiatry group that would be willing to allow me to finish my last 40 hrs of internship in podiatry assisting, please put in a good word for me. I need this internship.

Invisible Illness

Most people that I know today have no clue how sick I was once nor that I still have pain every day of my life. What has changed is the magnitude of pain and how I choose to push through it with drugs. I think many of the drugs given during my illness helped heal me but also had devastating side effects. My huge drop in weight is one side effect. I was severely malnourished from not eating—pain drugs do that—but I was as big as two houses.

Each day I have patients who share their illness of cancer or other life-changing illnesses. I can usually guess the health history by their nails. This shocks them! But it shows. ( I can also tell who takes street drugs.)

Many patients know my story or ask if it’s true. I share a bit of my story as I drill and clip away. I said to one man who shared his journey of bladder cancer with me, how I used to spend some days living in 5-second segments. 5 seconds!

I remember thinking, the pain was so intense, it hurt to breathe. I would think, If I can make it through the next 5 seconds… I kept repeating that for days, hours…

I stop working and look at my patient as I tell this story.

Silence.

He finally lets out a breath. “Well, you understand then.”

Yes, in some small way, I do.

The Need Is Great

I had a diabetic patient from a well-known HMO who has spent months begging his doctors for podiatry care. All his begging and requests for care fell on deaf ears.

The family heard about me from a physician’s wife who attended a charity auction where they auctioned off a full year of free care that I donated. Continue reading “The Need Is Great”

Homeless Monday Again

Homeless Monday! Woohoo! I missed my people and my grapefruit tree. Despite leaving my canopy, it will be only a cool 88 degrees today.

As I walked the Soquel camp ground last week, I would be stopped often and asked about my work. The biggest question was, “Where do you work with the homeless?”

My answer, “Under a grapefruit tree on a busy street corner on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Modesto !” That was my pat answer. Continue reading “Homeless Monday Again”

End of Day 4 of Clinic at Soquel

A couple married for 59 years came to see me.  The wife had chronic foot issues, mostly stemming from arthritis, and feet so painful that walking was almost impossible .

Her nails, as you can see, were overgrown and she had two very large painful corns. Touching was painful.

The saddest part is that her husband, who loved her so much, in an attempt to help her, used a dremel wood drill on her feet to try and reduce her thick nails and callouses. This caused her more unbelievable pain. Continue reading “End of Day 4 of Clinic at Soquel”

Day 4 of Clinic at Soquel

Day four of clinic. After last night’s interview we shall see what the days schedule shall bring. Thanks to Verna Kay Gibson and Joe N Ellen Beazley, and little sister, Esther, I was able to eat and work quickly. She cleared and cleaned and sanitized. A huge thank you to Inez Wontroba Bitzer who handed out flyers and gave money towards supplies.

Thank you to DeeAnna Eller for the gloves and pads! Thank you to Jim and Donna Aldrich for the alcohol , cider, and pads. All of this has made it possible for me to help many elderly for free, to help many get started on good health care for their feet. Continue reading “Day 4 of Clinic at Soquel”

Volunteer Event in Santa Cruz

I will be taking part in a 10-day volunteer event in Santa Cruz, California, in July. The clinic that I am volunteering for is for the same organization that I worked two days for on June 10-11 and provided free care for 39 clients! Over the 10 days of this clinic, I will once again be the sole toenail care provider.

I will be conducting classes on healthy toenail care. I will also be sharing and explaining the Medicare rules for obtaining foot care. Continue reading “Volunteer Event in Santa Cruz”