Feet first into the health care system

Many students use the summer as a chance to go to another country, or work on Excel spreadsheets for some company to help pad their resume. For my time off, I chose to break the mold. Though I managed to do both of the above things, I also was granted the chance to get an inside look at the health care system.

Before you start feeling bad for me, let me explain the actual reason that I went to the hospital. I went because I have really messed up feet. If there were such a thing as toe braces, I would have them. To summarize what it took my brilliant, but mumbling doctor much longer than necessary to explain, my second left toe is a dwarf. It is about half the length of its right foot homologue and never touches the ground. This means that my footprints on one side have four toes, like some kind of mutant. Anyways, my useless toe causes strain on my other toes trying to pick up the slack. I always sort of picture the dwarf in my head as a Napoleon Bonaparte figure, reclining on his small horse while the other general and grunt toes toil for his benefit.

The result was my big toe working too hard and getting to a condition that my doctor told me was mostly common in middle aged women who wear high heels a lot. This made me feel slightly guilty that I hadn’t messed up my toes wearing elegant shoes and striding along the red carpet. In my case, it was all that slacker Napoleon’s fault. My doctor offered me two courses of action. The first would be to pay an inflated price for shoe inserts to help prevent me from getting arthritis. Jeez doc, I had already felt old for going to my appointments alone, but with all this talk about arthritis, I felt like a baby boomer.

The second path was more ridiculous, I could have a contraption I would crank daily to gradually pull my dwarf toe to become longer. The doctor said he only recommended this painful and arduous procedure if I cared about how my feet looked. I asked him if little toe people like me -we’re a community- were insane/vain enough to ever even consider this option. He looked me in the eye (for the first time that appointment) and said: “People do it all the time”.

A few days later I came in to the hospital again to get my feet casted for the shoe inserts. I parked a couple blocks away, to avoid the criminally high hospital parking garage rates, understanding that if my foot were really really painful, walking the extra mile wouldn’t be an option. Still, I made the trek into the office and soon after was watching a nice man make my plaster molds. For someone subjugated to the cruel and unusual punishment of draping soggy plaster across my hideous, misshapen feet, this guy was pretty upbeat and chatty. We talked about life at college as if we were on a quad tossing a frisbee to each other, relaxed and comfortable. It was a nice way to get out of the austerity that often is medical practice. And for him to show interest in my life while my feet were in his hands? Unthinkable.

I often have spasms of horror when I look down at what is inside my own flip flops, so I have serious respect for people that work with tons of feet every day. Maybe the podiatrists, but mostly the foot fetishivists. Regardless, it felt good to have nice people around during the good, bad, and the ugly (emphasis on the last one) of my health care. Thanks Obama.

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