You’ll notice from the date that this picture was taken almost 22 years ago. Back then I was only a couple of years out of University and had recently started my dream job; working in a hospital setting as a specialist diabetes podiatrist. The person in the photograph was one of the patients that I was involved in caring for. He had diabetes and had burnt his foot on a gas fire, as he was unable to feel that the heat was actually burning his skin.

At that time I was slightly in awe of the consultants I was working alongside, but can still vividly remember feeling shocked that they somehow felt this gentleman was to blame for the wound on his foot, that he was somehow ignorant and responsible for the foot ulcer. Seriously – would anyone really believe that anyone would inflict such damage to themselves on purpose? Or that they would wilfully ignore advice they had been given to end up with such a wound?

But medicine doesn’t really like to invest in preventative care, it likes to cure and patients that aren’t easy to fix can be problematic, often labelled non-compliant or non-adherent. Medicine and society as a whole don’t really like feet either, when for example was the last time that you did anything to care for your own feet?

People with diabetes – a chronic illness that can be difficult to manage by people living with the condition and for the professionals involved in their care, become even more challenging when they develop a foot problem. There is a school of thought that foot health education is futile. Instead the medical community gets excited by recent innovations, such as sensors that can monitor how obedient patients are in wearing their prescription footwear. This I’m afraid smacks of being somewhat Orwellian, covert surveillance to control patients who won’t pay attention to what they are told. But what about a different approach where health care professionals listen instead, responding to what their patients need and becoming partners in their care.

So back to the photograph, why I have I hung on to this for over 20 years? After all in that time I’ve been married, had 2 amazing kids, got divorced, found love again, had a number of different employers, been made redundant and moved house 4 times. And yet in whatever stage I’ve been at in my life, I’ve always felt it important to hang on to this picture.

I should point out I’m not a hoarder, as I found out this Christmas, when after moving house last year I realised I’d skipped all of my decorations, including sentimental ones the kids had made me over the years. However, the person in this photograph I believe has truly defined my career. He did unfortunately end up having an amputation, I felt I’d let him down, that I could have done more to prevent this from happening, that I’d personally failed him.

And so over 20 years ago a candle was lit and my desire to prevent other people from suffering the same needless trauma began. In that time, depressingly the number of people suffering with diabetes has sky rocketed, as has also the number of people having amputations, an increase of 153%.

Today alone 23 people in England will have had a diabetes related amputation, tomorrow another 23, the same number the day after and so it will continue. And of those people having to face an amputation around 80% of those cases could have actually been prevented.

Is it okay that so many people are still having their lives ruined by something that with a little more support, education and awareness may well have been prevented? If you don’t think that this is something that will touch your life, you’re probably wrong. Today it’s estimated that 1 in 16 people in the UK have diabetes, but that number has doubled over the past 20 years. Today alone 700 people will have been diagnosed as having the condition. A quarter of people with diabetes will also go on to develop a foot problem.

I desperately want to change these statistics, and I believe that people’s experiences and stories are the most powerful tool to bring about a change. This is why I’ve created the FeelYourFeet community, to make expert foot education accessible and easy to understand, to create a community that encourages conversations and to transform the attitudes we have towards our feet.

To become part of the FeelYourFeet community simply sign up using the link on our home page. Join us today and share the important message about foot health and our community with your family and friends. #feelyourfeet

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