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My Left Foot: The High Costs of Fallen Arches

The New York Times—May 3, 2010

Actor Gbenga Akinnagbe shares his experience with corrective surgery for flat feet.

I have had pes planus, or flat feet, all my life, and the condition never stopped me from doing anything I wanted to do. Like most people, I never thought of it as a serious medical problem. That was until last year, when the pain got so bad I could barely walk or stand.

I was hoping some simple solution, like exercises, would allow me to continue my normal, active life. The first doctor I went to tried everything — orthotics, taping my feet, a brace — but nothing worked. He then reluctantly referred me to an orthopedic surgeon.

In most cases, pes planus does not interfere with everyday life, but it can in severe cases like mine. I had no arches at all, causing my body to compensate in ways that caused serious pain in my back and knees.

The first operation would be on my left foot; both feet could not be done at the same time or I would be an invalid. Before the operation, I was told I needed six procedures.
On Dec. 2, I went to Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan. I was lucky. During the operation, led by Dr. Martin J. O’Malley, my foot adjusted better than he expected and I needed only two of the six procedures.

The chat rooms warned that I might not be 100 percent for up to a year. My doctor said that because I am young (31) and athletic, I have strong and dense bones that should heal quickly. Also, I don’t smoke or drink, other factors that might slow the healing process. (My longstanding vice is ice cream.) And of course there is my superhuman mutant healing X factor, though I had trouble convincing my doctor about that one.

The hyperactive optimist in me has no doubt that I’ll be counted among the 90 percent success rate for calcaneal osteotomies. Dr. O’Malley said I healed like a 12-year-old — a full month ahead of schedule — and this week I’m rehearsing for a one-man show here in Seattle.

My right foot’s up next.

Read the full article at nytimes.com.



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