The childhood ditty “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes” looped annoyingly through my brain as daughter Leslie and I headed north to visit her big sister Carolynn who’d had surgery on eight toes.
Yup, eight little piggies “went to market,” so to speak, while her big piggies “stayed home.”
Carolynn had been suffering with horrible foot pain for months because her tiny tootsies had curled under like little piggy tails. One look at her feet and her doctor pronounced them deformed.
“Well, they’re just like my mother’s,” she said huffily. I wasn’t there, but I heard the huff from 596 miles away.
“Then your mother has deformed feet, too,” he said. I huffed when I heard that. Butt-ugly feet, yes, but deformed? I don’t think so.
She had the surgery to straighten what she’d started calling her “Cheetos.” The doctor chiseled bone and replaced joints — wee wee wee wee! — and because she insisted, he did all eight at the same time in a three-hour, same-day surgery! She received the “bravest patient award” from recovery room nurses.
Two days post-surgery she went shopping in a wheelchair with her best friend. Now, Carolynn is a nurse, so you’d think she’d know better, but no-o. Another day, she and Bill went to the grocery! He manned the wheelchair, she hooked her feet over the bottom rack of the grocery cart to elevate them, and held on to the cart to steer it through the store. Then, in the early hours of Saturday morning, she was so sick Bill took her to urgent care.
A strep infection! She had strep throat.
Leslie and I arrived around 5:00 that evening. Carolynn was enthroned on the sofa, feet propped, icy bags of peas chilling her throbbing toes. She had a mask across her nose and mouth and she was feverish and bleary-eyed. She asked me to fix baked custard, then dozed off the rest of the evening.
Next morning she looked at her sister and me and croaked, “When did you guys get here?” Her infected glands were so painful she couldn’t swallow, barely talk. I suggested we use some of the frozen peas to help reduce the swelling. Les snugged the bags around Carolynn’s neck and anchored them with a bright pink scarf. I was going to insert a picture here, but I doubt she’d thank me.
After the fact we learned about the well-meant shopping jaunts where strep germs probably lurked, waiting to attack someone with lowered resistence. We learned, but were not surprised, that Carolynn wanted to cut back on pain meds, and that she hoped to go back to work in four weeks.
When we got a good look at those poor little sewn-up toes — almost fifty stitches — Leslie and I looked at each other and shook our heads. From our own experiences with three knee replacements between us, we knew eight toes would require a long recuperation. Except for doctor visits, those tootsies wouldn’t be going bye-bye anytime soon.
Among other things during her convalescence, Carolynn had “crunchy toes.” Rice Krispie’s “snap, crackle, and pop” came to mind. The doctor fixed that with ghastly-sounding techniques (debridement, for one) that made my toes curl. Plus, the T-shaped incisions on her second toes had opened a bit and were infected. Special antibiotic ointment and hot and cold soaks, with her piggies encased like sausages in baggies, were prescribed.
She’ll go back to work almost exactly eight weeks post-surgery. In a few months, her feet will look perfect and best of all, they’ll be painfree. A pedicure will soothe away any lingering doubts.
If my surgeon were to suggest that my feet are deformed, I’d let him replace my other knee before I’d let him touch my toes.