When Unswerving Faith Is The Ultimate Healer
Grover, a 61-year-old African-American male, peered down at me through what looked like magnifying glasses inside black frames. He either had his cataracts removed before intraocular lens implants were available or had seen a local ophthalmologist who made his money removing cataracts the old-fashioned way. Although Grover built pumps down at the Gorman Rupp plant, his real passion in life was being one of the pastors at his church. A simple man without pretense or excuse, he often referred to his “Lord” in our conversation and how good he was to us. Grover told me Dr. Truberry wanted to cut off his leg because he had a sore on his foot that wouldn’t heal. Supposedly everything had been done that could be done. The truth of the matter was not much had been done. Antibiotics and crutches were the sum total of his treatment. It was pretty much state of the art in our small town in the late ‘70s. An elf shoe shaped foot emerged when he removed his shoe and sock. It had a large, full thickness ulcer in the center of it. His pulses were bounding and enclosed in insensate skin. The X-rays were negative for osteomyelitis but displayed an obvious burnt out Charcot foot. Back in those days, bone scans were just emerging as a way of ruling out osteomyelitis and were still not prevalent in our podiatric literature. MRIs were a thing of the future and no one had yet come up with the simple concept that if the ulcer palpated to bone, it was probably an infected bone. Things didn’t look too promising but I told him I would do what I could. Grover said the Lord was in charge and was going to heal his foot. Grover soon became a regular patient. In fact, I looked forward to seeing him. He was always upbeat and positive about life, giving me a lift whenever I stepped into a treatment room with him. The problem was his foot was not getting better. Twelve months of debridement, total contact casts, crutches and a slew of culture directed antibiotics did not help. Eventually, Grover put in for an early retirement from Gorman Rupp. The high ideals of a young practitioner being able to heal anything were beginning to fade. Grover was just not going to get better. When it became obvious that the next step was to send him back to the hacker and remove his leg, Grover asked me to do one more thing. “Doc, why don’t you just pray for my foot? I still believe the Lord can heal it.” I had never had a patient ask me to pray for his or her sick foot before. That doesn’t mean I’m not a praying man. It just means I did what I was trained to do. I simply practiced the art and science of podiatric medicine and surgery. Since my bag of tricks was empty, I decided to honor my old friend’s request. What could it hurt? At the very least, it would make him feel better. So with my lily whites encircling the distal end of his dark and leathered extremity, I prayed his foot would be healed. Grover thanked me while I bandaged his foot once again. I had the staff schedule him for a follow-up visit. Two weeks later, I opened the treatment room door to Grover perched on my old Ritter, smiling so big I thought his glasses had slipped. “Doc, I’m healed,” he blurted out. Skeptical, I elevated the chair so his foot was at eye level. Just to make sure God wasn’t hiding it under something, I took my number 15 and picked at a little remaining callus. Yes, the ulcer that had plagued this dear man for almost two years was gone. I continued to see Grover regularly in the office until a year or more went by. Never once did he form a new ulcer. However, Grover’s diabetes started taking its toll on other parts of his body. When his BUN and creatinine started edging into the red zone, he would stop by and ask if I could pray for his kidneys. Apparently, my prayers weren’t quite as effective at healing his kidneys. Within another year or so, Grover went home to be with the one who saw to it that he died with both his feet and legs intact. He may have died with his kidneys in failure but his foot was ulcer free. Dr. Zimmerman is a Diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. Dr. McCord (pictured) is a Diplomate wtih the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. He practices at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.