From pus-filled sores and foot fungus to open ankle fractures, there isn’t much the doctors on TLC’s new hit show “My Feet Are Killing Me” haven’t seen, but that’s also the message that they want their patients to take home.
“I’ve really treated everything under the sun,” Dr. Brad Schaeffer, a New Jersey-based foot surgeon who stars on the show alongside California-based surgeon Dr. Ebony Vincent, told Fox News. “When you’re in residency, you see bizarre cases that just walk into the emergency department.”
And now that they’re both in their own practices, Schaeffer and Vincent said that training has helped prepare them for any kind of case that may come through their doors.
“We do a lot with diabetics, and diabetics have a lot of very extreme wounds,” Schaeffer said. “And when you have wounds like that, and you’re not controlled as a diabetic should be, we really have to manage the infection and in managing that, you deal with a lot of smells, a lot of pus – it’s a lot of those things that do make you cringe sometimes. But it’s our job to maintain that poise and really just show them the respect that they deserve and help and fix them.”
Vincent, who on the show recently used a cadaver bone to fix a woman’s foot, said that part of their show’s purpose is to help educate the larger public about issues that they themselves may be facing but are too embarrassed to seek help for, or are unsure of where to turn. For some patients, that may translate to years spent in pain missing out on everyday life.
“I think it’s a lack of knowledge on who can help them,” Vincent told Fox news. “I feel like a lot of my patients, they go and see their family doctor for regular checkups and as long as their brain, heart, and kidneys are working fine, they’re like, ‘I’m good,’ but no one is looking at their feet going, ‘OK so how are you getting to work? How are you driving? How is your life functioning?’”
Vincent explained that for a lot of patients, there’s often a co-morbidity like obesity or heart disease that a foot problem can make even more difficult to address.
“If their doctor just tells them you know, workout or eat less – they don’t realize that that’s a challenge for that patient because if you can’t move your feet in order to work out, it’s just not going to happen,” she said. “That’s why there’s a specialist for every organ, for every limb in your body. That’s why they’re the specialist and that’s why it’s a medical team that helps people with their health and not just one physician.”
There are some patients, unfortunately, that the doctors have not been able to fully heal, but they’ve been able to make more comfortable to improve their everyday life. Such was the case with a Florida man who traveled to see Schaeffer for Proteus Syndrome, which caused his feet to grow uncontrollably. Jeffrey Ortega said it felt like he was “walking on glass,” while Schaeffer said his patient’s feet were “the largest feet I’ve ever seen.”
Surgery wasn’t an option for Ortega, who over his years-long quest for relief had been presented with possible amputation, but Schaeffer was able to provide him with a pair of custom shoes that made walking easier and more comfortable for him.
“My biggest thing is quality of life,” Schaeffer said. “Even in my personal life, it’s like, how can I make my quality of life the best? And that’s what I try to convey to my patients. It’s so important to get these things treated and just get back to their norm. Whatever your norm is, you’ve got to get back to it and happy – that’s critical.”
Both agree that the show is helping them decrease the stigma surrounding feet health in addition to helping patients with odd cases come forward.
“I think our show is normalizing foot health,” Schaeffer said. “And it’s also kind of making it obvious that yours is an individual thing. Nobody is exactly alike, everybody has their little quirks and things of that nature and it doesn’t need to be made fun of — it just needs to be helped. I think that’s the biggest thing that our show does.”
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