After completing my honours year researching diabetic foot ulcers, I realised how important it is to have a podiatrist involved in my diabetes care management plan. Even so, it took me many months before I finally decided to go to my GP to get the referral I needed, send said referral to the podiatrist, wait a few weeks for them to contact me, wait a few more weeks before I chased them up for an appointment, cancel my appointment because of work and reschedule, and almost cancelling it again because I couldn’t afford the initial $95 fee I had to pay (even though under the Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) program I can claim some of the money back through medicare, it was the upfront payment that I struggle with). I persisted, pulled some money together and went to see my podiatrist at 7.30am on a thursday in my last week of work. (Without my morning caffeine hit because I slept in, as you would if you had a 7.30am appointment) But I’m glad I went.
First she got me to walk up and down the corridor. The first thing she noticed was the birthmark on my left leg. For those of you who haven’t seen it – it’s big. It takes up half the lower half of my left leg and my mum calls it my personal heater as it’s warmer to the touch than the skin next to it without the birthmark. It is also slightly swollen compared to my other leg (makes buying boots very difficult). Supposedly it’s because of the extra soft tissue that is around there but no one can really explain it. My pod was immediately both intrigued and concerned by it. Particularly because of the swelling, extra heat and the little veins you can see that map my birthmark. Result: get a referral to see the vascular team at the Alfred for further investigation.
Then she told me something else that’s interesting about me for you: my left leg is longer than my right leg, which causes my knees to hyper-extend, causing me to be wobbly on my feet (anyone who has seen me attempt ball sports would know what I mean). This also causes me to use the wrong muscles to stabilise my knee, which is why they ache sometimes, particularly after I do a lot of sport. This news resonated with what my Exercise Physiologist (EP) said to me before as well, so it’s a good thing that I’m doing more exercises that encourages me to use the right muscles when walking. Result: get a referral to see the community health pod to get some orthotics to help my knee because I can’t afford them privately. Orthotics are surprisingly expensive and could cost a few hundred dollars without subsidy.
Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to my pod. She’s friendly and very open. I confided that I was hoping to go on the pump but have been nervous to chat to my educator about it and she gave me the encouraging push I needed to finally write the email about it (which was accompanied by a bounce-back email saying she’s on hols until Jan…fail…). She also gushed on about how great Melbourne’s public health system is aside from the long waiting times. But she said that you never want to be in the hospital public system to see a podiatrist because that would mean that your feet are in pretty bad shape. And so to everyone person living with diabetes reading this, please get your feet checked regularly to avoid being in that situation!