Standing on a ladder outside building a swing set, I was vaguely aware of the upturned piece of lumber on the ground beneath me. I quickly forgot myself in the overhead fastening of wood and leapt off of the ladder to admire my handiwork. As I felt the nail enter my foot, I fell to the ground while pulling off my shoes and socks to see the damage. A puncture wound stared back at me. A rusty nail poked at me from the wood and I hobbled inside and shouted out to my wife to call my doctor.
The remainder of the day was a hectic scramble to get a tetanus shot for which I had to drive 50 miles for the closest 24-hour clinic that had them in stock, though that was better than the ER or an urgent care facility. The next day my car flooded during the rain and I had to figure out how I was going to get to work. Meanwhile, my doctor insisted that I get an x-ray to rule out any foreign object in my foot. I was also instructed to order antibiotics to treat a possible bone infection from the pharmacy. I found a facility that accepted my insurance for an x-ray although when I arrived it turned out that the company was bought by another company that did not accept my insurance. I drove my rental car to a podiatrist who took the x-ray and then to Walgreens to order my anti-biotics. The pharmacy filled the medication at the 24-hour clinic I had driven to for the tetanus shot and I had to request a transfer for the medication to be filled at the neighbourhood Walgreens.
I was exhausted at the end of the day. My foot was throbbing in pain, swollen, and walking was a real burden. I arrived home, soaked my foot for 20 minutes which did not allow me to perform the needed chores at home, and then wrapped my foot and hobbled off to bed. The next day was less difficult although the pain in my foot was quite intense. I arrived to work and sympathetically apologized to each patient for the hassle of attending physical therapy and empathized with their pain.
This experience reminded me of how difficult it is to visit with a healthcare provider and even more so when in pain. It is only normal for the memory to fade, however, I hope by writing this story I can review the events and revisit the hassle I went through as I work with my patients. I feel this was a great lesson in empathy.