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9 Toes Later – Why Managing A Foot Should Be Left To the Professionals

I’m 47 years old and because of my own doing, I’m now down to nine toes.  

This all started because of a bunion on my foot that presses my toes together.  The resulting friction caused a corn to grow on my middle toe. This was causing a great deal of pain and needed proper medical assistance, so I booked a next-day appointment with Dr. Beau Willis at Gulf South Foot and Ankle in the Metairie office.  Dr. Willis examined my foot and condition and recommended that the corn be removed from my toe and that the wound be kept clean and allowed to heal. Over the course of the next few weeks, the corn started to grow back, and thinking that I knew what was wrong and what needed to be done after watching Dr. Willis, I promptly tried to remove the corn myself with equipment found in a medicine cabinet and a Swiss Army Knife.

While my at-home procedure seemed to work most immediately, within 24 hours infection set-in and the pain got worse.  I tried to manage the wound as I did before with the procedure that Dr. Willis prescribed after the first corn was removed, but it seemed that after a few days, I could no longer take the pain and the wound needed proper medical attention.

I contacted Gulf South Foot and Ankle and booked a same-day appointment with Dr. Willis.  Almost immediately, he had asked what I had done to the toe – knowing that the wound and the infection did not look the way it should after the initial procedure.  In coming clean, I explained what happened and what I had done and he immediately requested x-rays to see if the infection had reached the bone and recommended that surgery was likely needed.  The x-rays were done immediately on-site, but they could not determine if the infection was set into the bone, and or joint. Dr. Willis was joined by Dr. Watkins for a second set of eyes and they consulted on the case and determined a few things to proceed with treatment.  First, they prescribed an antibiotic to help alleviate the infection and requested an MRI to determine the level of infection in the toe. They also ordered a blood test to determine whether or not I was diabetic, or if any other issues would arise that would guide the ultimate treatment decision.  Finally, they requested a consultation with an Infectious Disease doctor to determine the level of infection and also consult on course of action and next steps.

After the results came back a few things were determined: 1. I did not have diabetes – woo hoo!; and 2. The MRI determined that the infection had reached the joint and bone – bummer.  Now, I’ve always had a thyroid issue and have taken medication since high school to keep it in check, so I knew I was going to have to talk to my endocrinologist to review next steps. Unfortunately, both Gulf South Foot and Ankle and the Infectious Disease Dr. determined that removal of the toe was the best course of action, as an infection in the bone is tricky to remove and there is never a guarantee that antibiotics through an IV will even work.  Turns out that it is a long process where medication may be required for a year to try to treat and remove the infection. The down side…too late…is that there is also a chance that with aggressive treatment, the infection can spread. I was left with no other alternative but to remove the toe. It was explained to me that if I had to lose a toe, the middle one is not a bad one to lose because it does not impact balance or should not impede anything that I’d still like to accomplish physically in the future.

Dr. Willis successfully removed my middle toe on Monday and reported that during the operation, before removal, the bone was inspected and I was told that it was somewhat soft and unhealthy.  Dr. Willis feared that if we had not gone this route, the infection could have quickly spread to other areas, but it appeared that the issue was caught in time.

While this situation to me is less than ideal, I have to give credit to the team at Gulf South Foot and Ankle for immediately recognizing the severity of the issue and put together a plan of action to handle the situation swiftly prior to it getting worse.  I now feel fortunate that only one toe was lost in the process.

I’ve had foot issues the majority of my life and am a walking lesson-learned about getting these issues checked early and often from now on.  I will also no longer perform any future at-home procedures with household equipment. Now, with the successful nature of the surgery, I am told that I may even be able to ski with my family on our annual trip this spring.

I’ll try to provide an update in a few weeks on recovery, but for now, schedule an appointment with your podiatrist sooner rather than later if you have any questionable issues.  For me, we will be discussing the bunions that ultimately caused this issue and treatment options once I recover.


-The 9-Toed 47-Year-Old

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