Foot-Fixer Upper

Oh no!
My aching Toe,
I want relief,
As I clench my teeth.

I need to find,
Before I lose my mind,
A doctor who won't say no,
To the pain in my toe!

And Amen, I found him! But boy, it took my long enough to get the nerve to call!   I was trying everything to avoid going for that darn ingrown nail on my big toe. Asking family, friends for suggestions wasn't working; goggling on Google (my new best friend!) didn't help either, even doing minor surgery on myself. So I broke down and called, after getting a referral from my GP’s office.  This new doctor was Michael R. Baker, DPM, FACFAS. 

Well, as luck would have it, or un-luck, his office got me in pretty quickly. I did not have enough time to chicken out. Believe me, it would not have taken much to do so! Given my past history with podiatry, I was dreading this.  

The last time I had visited a podiatrist, my son was in second grade and he is now 33 years old. I will never forget the first thing he asked me was how I learned of his name. I told him I had found it in the yellow pages of the phone book. He told me Rule Number One, never pick a doctor straight out of the phone book. Boy, was he ever right!

That year, I was coaching my son's boys basketball team.  What was supposed to be an easy procedure was a nightmare. The podiatrist convinced me my infected ingrown toe nail needed to be permanently removed that day, or rather the side of the nail from the root of the nail bed.Furthermore, he foresaw,with his magic crystal ball, that my other toe was going to need this same surgery.  He CLAIMED it would be so much easier on me to have them both done at the same time. My head must have read 'gullible' with opacity ink.

That year, Erlanger, Kentucky had a rather unusual basketball coach a young boys team, that would be moi. I was limping around most of the rest of the season on ugly medical platform shoes laced on both feet, wincing in pain and begging the boys not to step on my feet. My feet are so large than they hung over the edge. (You get the picture?)  In-between quarters and half times, the boys would gather around me so I could prop my feet up on chairs to reduce swelling and pain.  Thank God I had played basketball in school and started the season with these kids so their parents and the boys knew I had played the game and been on the court showing my skill.  I had already won everyone’s faith in my coaching and basketball skills ability. Unlike my foot doctor who had lost my faith and quickly became know as the doctor from from hell or more precisely, Wicked Witch of Toes.

Both toes got horribly infected, bled unbelievably, oozed, and had plenty of complications. I was a regular at his office for weeks on end. I am sure, if you get PTSD from toe nail surgery,  I have it.  To this day, I refuse to get hypnotized to remember the entire trauma.   I am not willing to get treated for the psychological damage done to me, toe anxiety.  Many told me I should file a law suit at the time but I was afraid of recanting the tale and having ore nightmares. It was horrific to go through. Do you know how hard it is to sleep, weeks on end, with both of your feet on a pillow? To this day, when I get a massage,  I refuse to let anyone touch my feet? I go bonkers if anyone goes anywhere near my feet. I swear that damn doctor gave me a foot phobia!  Those months were a living hell!  

Flash forward to present day. I walk in to this new office near my home in Spring Hill fearing this podiatrist in as I would a dentist, only much worse.  I think of him as the devil reincarnated. I think the first words out of my mouth, after he greets me and I check him out from head to toe were "I am not anxious to be here. "(Translation: I hate you, do your job and let me get the hell out of here!)  He looked okay to me in person but looks can be deceiving so I was not won over, and still apprehensive.  

He kept his distance from me, which was kind, taking my comment with a slight smile and wanted to know why I felt that way but he seemed fine non-verbally with my bluntness.  I then told him how he ranked in my line of favorite people to visit. (Okay, I can be real honest, sometimes blatantly!)  Plus I wanted reassurance he was not going to repeat my past.  I said my fear was as strong as the dentist but letting him in on the fact my dentist was my son. He said he was grateful to hear that!  

I begun to see his softness and empathy in his face and easy going nature so I opened up about my fear. I could tell he sensed it and was not rushing me. I explained why I was reluctant to be there in his presence.  The tone of the visit began to change and my walls started to erode.  He listened intently and with compassion and assured me that that experience was not going to be mine ever again, not at his hands.  I believed him, the look in his face was a strong commitment and something I knew he was standing his reputation behind. 

Dr. Baker's personality was not what I expected from a doctor obsessed with toes, feet and ankles. He was normal.  He was humorous, relate-able, understandable and empathic. Dr. Baker could be a character at times too, when the mood needed to be lightened, when I needed it less intense.  I enjoy doctors who are very competent, thorough and yet are sharp witted and make you feel human when you are there and not like a guinea pig or just a number. He has good intuition for people and seems to read patients well and know how to make them feel more comfortable in the room when performing a procedure to keep the mood light.  Health care providers have a way of making you feel like just a victim instead of a patient. Doctors seldom have patience for patients.  This doctor had the attitude of both. 

I learned that we both originated from NYC.  He attended the NY College of Podiatric Medicine.  This makes him a good combination of northern roots but he has the joy of living and loving southern hospitality. This is an interesting mix that allows him to relate to a diverse client mix.  I also quickly learned, after questioning him about everything under the sun, he actually has never had a foot fetish. I assumed all podiatrists did.   When he married, he did find his step son had foot problems. Ah, so there is one draw to the field!

I love to hear of doctors that took the time to serve our country.  Dr. Baker served in the United States Army as an active officer; two years at Fort Bragg North Carolina completing a Podiatric Surgical Residency. He went on to become an interim faculty member there and an ankle and foot surgeon. Next, he served at Fort Campbell Kentucky as Chief of Podiatry.   Military service is always to be commended! It is a choice.  And let's be frank here, foot service matters people.    Our military are no good without their foot and ankle problems addressed, aye?

He gave me options on how best to precede with my toe letting me make the ultimate decision. I think some of his disciplined approach in treating patients fairly may have come from treating service personnel.   I love being given all the facts in layman’s terms and being allowed to determine what is best for me, the best course of treatment.   I was also given the time to make the decision, with no pressure.

My procedure, cutting out a toe nail from its base, was a relatively simple procedure for him, as opposed to my previous experience years before.   He had been informed by me, quite early on in this visit, of the nightmare experience of the past.  He actually listened intently but told me there would be no repeat drama at his hands.  This was a basic procedure for him and the story was unreal to hear.

Dr. Baker’s passion is reconstruction and trauma, surgery, ankle and foot problems.  

I wrote this blog to share my experience about Dr. Baker and to show the sharp contrast to another podiatrist.   Seldom am I compelled to write about a health care provider.  However, when I meet one and use one that I find engaging, thorough and would highly recommend, it certainly warrants the time to promote the doctor. This expert is definitely in that class!   This guy is really cool, awesome skill sets, and very personable. I would highly recommend him so please pass this around.  How the heck do you get the name of good foot doctors anyways?

During my procedure, he quickly caught on, I am sharp witted and can be somewhat abrasive with my humor, as many New Yorkers can be. Not meaning any harm at all, it is actually a form of giving flattery.  This is when I asked him if he was born with a foot fetish or developed it later.  I also wondered if he preferred Chinese restaurants where he could sit and see everyone’s feet. He matched my demeanor, keeping the mood light so I was at ease throughout the procedure.  He knew I was intrigued by the procedure but did not want to watch it (Blah!) so instead he relayed the steps.  Naturally, he added some humorous comments along the way.  I must say, I certainly never expected to laugh at my toe procedure!

As I left, fully expecting to have days of discomfort, begging for pain medication and being given them, I was met with a smile and assurance they would not be needed. Sure, I thought.  But he was right! I healed just fine, no pain, no gain is just not always true.  My toe is as good as new. Thank you for not making me blue, Dr. Baker.     

If your toe is in a jam, don’t forget this man!

Michael R. Baker, DPM, FACFAS

Please visit their practice's website, Advanced Foot & Ankle Care Centers (link below) to learn more. Be sure and tell him I told you he was toe-tally awesome.