Moments That Matter: "We Had Made a Big Difference in This Man's Life"

Appeared in: The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

This week's installment of Moments That Matter comes from Kene Ofili, who as a Schweitzer Fellow in the Bay Area last year partnered with Healthy Oakland to launch "A Leg Up on Diabetes" - an educational program focused on providing knowledge about diabetes, managing associated symptoms, and preventing disease progression.

Ofili, a student at Samuel Merritt University's California School of Podiatric Medicine, says:

One aspect of the project was trying to get people who needed more long-term follow up an appointment at Alameda County Hospital's Podiatry Clinic. Being an over-booked, under-staffed county clinic, this was proving very difficult over the course of the year.

I recall one client in particular who [would have benefited] from a visit to the Podiatry Clinic. He was a diabetic white male who was suffered through recurrent ulceration of the distal tip of his right big toe secondary to a digital contracture. Essentially, he was walking on the tip of his big toe-and because he was also dealing with diabetic neuropathy, he had no sensation in both feet.

These are the prototypical diabetic patients who suffer from infected lower extremities-which leads to amputation, because these things get out of hand and infected before the patient even notices anything.

Because I was not able to actually treat patients, and the clinic was not equipped to provide wound care products for situations like this, I suggested off-weighting the area so that the wound would not get worse. I spent about 30 minutes suggesting ways this gentleman could make sure the wound didn't get worse or infected.

After the visit, he was thankful that we had spent the time to make sure he understood how to protect himself from more complications. He was to return to the clinic in 3 weeks, at which time we hoped to have an appointment set up for him at Alameda County.

In the meantime, the knowledgeable staff at Healthy Oakland made the necessary phone calls and filled out the paperwork for this man to get an appointment at the clinic. I kept tabs on this patient, and from what I was told, he was scheduled to undergo a procedure that would fuse the toe in a straightened position so that he would no longer be walking on the tip of it. This would give the ulcer a chance to heal and prevent recurrence.

Last I had heard, he was one week out from the surgery and healing well. This intervention was not typical because most clients are not able to be seen at the county hospital for months - but this was a very gratifying experience for me because I felt like we had made a big difference in this man's life.


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