A Cobbler’s Mistake

I saw Billy G. yesterday afternoon on his way home from work. He was thrilled to be back to work again. A cobbler’s mistake cost Billy two weeks’ pay, and it could have cost him his foot.

Billy has had diabetes since he was a teenager, and he has such severe diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) that he has no feeling at all in his feet. He needs special diabetic shoes, which his insurance company will only replace every several years. They will help him pay to have his work boots re-soled, however, and this got done a month or so ago. Our local cobbler did the job for him while he waited. Billy didn’t notice that a week after he got the boots back, the nails used to attach the new soles started to work their way through the sole of his left work boot and the sole of his left foot. 

Billy’s wife, Theresa, checks his feet for him every night because he isn’t quite limber enough to see the bottoms of his feet; some people use a mirror in order to see their feet better, but Billy’s diabetes has affected his eyesight too much for him to do the job himself. If Theresa hadn’t spotted the wound the first day, who knows what could have happened to Billy’s foot. It took two weeks to heal the damage, two weeks without a paycheck, and two weeks of worrying.

Billy went back to the cobbler and told him what happened. Theresa had told me “I suppose we could have sued him, but we just wanted him to know so nobody else got hurt like Billy”. 

Theresa does one more thing for Billy every day now: Every morning, she checks the inside of his work boots for nails before he puts them on. Then, as she has had to since he started to lose the feeling in his fingertips, she ties his boots for him, and she makes sure they’re not tied too tight.

Billy can’t feel pain in his feet, but I know he can feel the love in the countless little things Theresa does so that the two of them can carry on day after day.

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Osler said “Listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis”. Duvefelt says “Listen to your patient, he is telling you what kind of doctor he needs you to be”.


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