It’s over. I went to see my surgical podiatrist, Dr. Daly, this morning.
She told Maria and me that the wound from my toe amputation is “fully healed, with minimum swelling or scarring.” She said we should put Vitamin E on the toe stump for the next three months to soften any scar. Otherwise, we’re done.
Maria and I have been going to see her every other week for the past three years, most of which I had to wear special surgical shoes to keep ulcerated injuries on my left foot from infection. I’m happy to say I brought Amish cookies and pies to the nurses every time I went, including today. It was my way of thanking them for all the excellent work they did.
As a teenager, I had trouble walking or running, and a podiatrist told me my left foot was flattening and twisting. I’ve tried different braces and orthotics without success.
My foot kept growing flatter and was off balance. I could walk and even hike, but there was always pain and difficulties with my foot and, thus, my leg and back. I guess I just muddled through and did the best I could.
Three years ago, things came to a head. I cut my toe on something, and it bled.
Because of the disfigurement of my leg, my big toe was being pushed against my shoes, and a callus was created that irritated the toe and caused the wound to become an ulcerated sore that could not heal.
The diabetes wasn’t the problem, but the foot was affected because if the ulcerated wound didn’t go away, the foot could quickly become infected, which would mean all sorts of trouble. I could lose a foot or even a leg. Dr. Daly was worried about this the whole time, and so were we. An infection could spread at any time, she said. We had to be vigilant, and she scraped the callous every time, and it often bled, which made the danger all the more remarkable.
We thought with every visit that it might be better, and sometimes it was, but it never healed, and the danger never eased. Meanwhile, those surgical boots were causing significant pain in the legs and back. I was walking like a hundred-year-old man.
At one point, we decided to operate to remove a bone spur Dr. Daly thought might be a factor in the troubles we were having. But that didn’t work either; it just put me in surgical boots for months at a time.
We tried everything to heal the wound, including anti-bacterial medicine. I wore surgical shoes; we tried gauze and bandages, and wraps. We traveled to Saratoga every few weeks to see the very committed Dr. Daly. More and more, I had to give up my walking and my regular shoes; both were too dangerous.
Sometimes we made some progress; mostly, we didn’t. The wound just wouldn’t heal, the toe wouldn’t let it. The problem was the toe. It had pushed out in the wrong direction, throwing the foot off even further and endangering it. When it was amputated, we could move forward. It was a very long and complicated process.
Every week we thought this might be it, this would be the week it heals, but it became more and more apparent over time that it wasn’t going to recover. And the surgical shoes were throwing my balance off and causing both legs to hurt when I tried to walk.
Earlier this year, I got a special custom-made brace to see if that could help the toe to heal. It didn’t. We were out of options.
Finally, I asked Dr. Daly about amputation. She agreed it was the best course. The toe is gone, the wound is healed, and my feet are in good health, except it still needs bracing. Earlier this week, I went to begin the measuring and bracing process; I should have the new one in several months.
Maria and I were almost in shock at the outcome today. This long chapter and the nerve-wracking challenge are over at least for now; another is beginning.
I’ve met with David of COP Orthotics, and I’m excited about his plan for a custom-made new kind of brace he feels will help straighten and live my food and make it possible for me to walk like I used to.
My next appointment with Dr. Daly is in July; she was pleased with how the wound healed. I may have diabetes, but there is plenty of blood reaching my feet. Maria did a fantastic job with bandaging and applying various medicines and gauze. I can’t put the old brace on without her help; the new one should be different.
I know this isn’t over, but it’s a lot less frightening and grueling; I won’t have the new brace until August or September if all goes well. We both feel that this grinding part of it is over. With the toe gone, there are all sorts of new possibilities.
Maria and I were exhausted this afternoon; she thinks it’s an emotional reaction to this long process ending.
I suspect she is right. We did a good job. We never quit on it until we had no choice.
I’ll be writing about the new brace and looking forward to walking again. Dr. Daly was impressive; there is no one in the world I would rather have taking care of my foot. She is a wonderful physician, and she has a fantastic nursing staff. They made such a big difference.
We are grateful for the way this turned out.
I had to sacrifice my toe for the greater good; it was the right move. I’m looking forward to the brace. I will be walking again, up my favorite nearby hill with Zinnia.
What a journey, Jon! And as always, you’ve taken us right along with you. It’s been heartening for me to see how you respond to each new challenge. You’ve helped me learn that it isn’t what happens to you that’s important, it’s how you decide to respond to it that actually matters and determines the course of your life. Thank you.