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.