"Why on earth did you chose to become a podiatrist?"
For every person that ever became a podiatrist, this question comes as no stranger. On a near-daily basis, I have been asked the same question for 18 years. The question usually comes as I am diagnosing a toenail ripe with fungus. It's a fair question at that point.
For all those that are curious as to my answer, here you go. In honor of the Marine Corps birthday, you get the truth, even if you can't handle the truth!
The time and place: 1988, USMRCD San Diego; Marine Corps boot camp.
I am busy running in my platoon's initial physical evaluation, doing a 3 mile run around a dirt track that sits directly across from San Diego International Airport, separated only by a chain link fence. With less than one hundred yards to go, my left foot lands on a rock and my ankle rolls and makes a loud popping noise. I fall to the dirt like a sniper has taken me out. I grab my ankle and curse and wait for the paramedics to come take me away on a stretcher. Instead, several nice drill instructors run to me and bark in my face and call me horrible names and 'encourage' me to get up and finish the run. I do not bother wiping the spit off my face and limp at a high rate of speed over the finish line, a gaggle of agitated drill instructors in tow, yelling obscenities at me and saying horrible things about my weak ankles.
Later that day.
"What the is that on your ankle, freak!?!" Yells my senior drill instructor as he points at my ankle, seeing it for the first time outside of a boot.
"Sir, this recruit sprained his ankle." I respond.
"No, doubt Sherlock." He replies, wincing in hatred at the mere sight of my weak ankle. "Can you train?"
"Sir, yes sir!" I reply.
"Well stand on one foot and let's see,"
I raise my bad foot and ankle off the ground and stand on my healthy right foot. The drill instructor has a near stroke.
"Not your good foot! Your other foot, brainstorm!" He roars, his face red with fury, his contempt for my ankle weakness unrestrained.
I do as instructed, switch feet, and promptly fall to the deck, all the while still at attention. He screams at the top of his lungs. "GO SEE THE CORPSMAN!"
Naturally, I did as told. The next day I set out with a crew of sickly recruits to the Navy medical clinic. Some of my company for the short march that day were a bed-wetter, an asthmatic, a home-sick boy bent on getting discharged and busy faking heat stroke (it was November), a kid with a neck abscess the size of a golf ball, and a few more fakers.
"Well, that's a dozie!" The Navy podiatrist said as he looked at my ankle and x-ray. Strangely, he did not swear, insult me or my pathetic ankle, and had a calm demeanor as compared to my four drill instructors, all seemingly hopped up on lethal doses of caffeine and contempt. An ace wrap, some crutches, some ibuprofen, and a note saying that I could not march or run for a few days (light-duty) was the treatment plan. Back at the squad bay, the drill instructors swore to get even with me and my limp ankle upon my being removed from light-duty.
"You think your ankle is sore now, boy? Wait 'till you're off light duty," one drill instructor promised. Another drill instructor made down a count-down calendar so they could build up the drama for my imminent release from light duty. Luckily for me, by the time I was off light duty, the bed -wetter, the heat stroke-faker (who decided to drop the heat stroke theme and tried to kill himself by drinking the platoon's supply of Listerine and got drunk and vomited profusely instead), and the usual myriad of sick perpetual screw-ups had so distracted the drill instructors that they forgot to specifically target my weak left ankle. I managed to graduate boot camp without becoming a cripple.
Years later, in 1993, while in college and doing the pre-med program, a podiatry school recruiter came for a seminar. I remembered for the first time in years the Navy podiatrist who fixed up my ankle and did not swear at me while doing so.
"Maybe I'll go check out this podiatry thing," I told my friend.
"Could be worse things in the world, I suppose." he said.
Happy Marine Corps birthday!!!
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