As a practicing physician for the last 27 years, you could say that I am one who "stands on her own two feet." Literally, though, I have been standing on my feet for much longer, first as a medical student, then as an intern and a resident, and after 11 long years of medical education, my feet have continued to stand firm at the bedside of my patients.
I entered my residency with a shoe size 9, and I finished my training with a hefty size 10. Endless hours on call, all of them mostly standing, finally led to a fallen arch. Now, in my mature years, I have become a wiser, more experienced physician - with painful feet. My left foot has post-traumatic arthritis, and I feel a deep, piercing pain in my right heel from plantar fasciitis.
One weekend about three months ago, I limped into a medical meeting in Houston in my most expensive European shoes, outfitted with a heel pad and an insert, both of which had become of little value towards alleviating my pain. As I dragged myself past the booths displaying various technological exhibits, I noticed a booth with some funny-looking shoes, and an even funnier name: "Cra-Z-CoiL." To my surprise, I saw a number of physicians lined up in front of the booth waiting to try on those shoes. I decided to join the line, hoping the wait wouldn't be too long, since standing was becoming increasingly unbearable. When my turn came, I chose a pair of black sneakers. I stepped into them and I began to walk, and I walked, and walked, and walked, like a toddler fascinated with her first steps. I told my husband, "Please pay the lady and ask her to pack up my Mephistos; I am not getting out of these shoes!" And I haven't. The next day I bought my second pair, the black clogs, and I have not used any of my (many) other pairs of shoes since.
Recently we spent almost three weeks in Germany, where I walked the almost exclusively historical pebbled roads all day long, secure and pain-free in my Z-CoiLs. I had to tell many Germans where to find information on these shoes, which really piqued their curiosity. At the airport, several security agents smiled when my Z-CoiLs showed up on their screens; they probably thought I was just a funky traveler, and my shoes were returned to me with all respect. Some people think they look weird, while others say they are really cool. I think they are my feet now, the ones I lost during an exciting but demanding career. And, except for bedtime, they go with me everywhere, from the treadmill to the most elegant evening, since I know nobody will actually mind my coils or find them unattractive; it is my big smile and contentment that will really catch their eye!
Christina Stemmler, M.D.