I’ve known I had a heel spur for some time now, probably four years or so. And of course, like a typical man, I did nothing about it until it just about crippled me.
I knew the options, an operation (no) a cortisone injection (yes, but when?) or heel pads; which being the easiest, was what I tried first. Of course, heel pads work for about a day until they flatten out and become worthless, and at $12 a pop at Duane Reed this was not the way to go. I needed a better solution.
My wife Danusia is a great believer in holistic, alternative medicine. A couple of years ago she was experiencing a lot of pain in her left shoulder, she had a hard time raising her arm over her shoulder. She went to the doctor, who diagnosed it as “frozen shoulder syndrome” and sent her to physical therapy. She went twice a week for four months and at the end was still in pain and still unhappy. On a chance encounter with another actress at a job, she was told to try accu-pressure, and gave her a number to call. Enter Dr. Qui. I’m not exactly sure if that’s the way he spells his name, when I speak to him on the phone he says: “Hello, Dr. Quee”. I know I’m not Dr. Qui, so I know he means “Hello, this is Dr. Qui.” But it sounds like Quee.
Anyhow, Dr. Quee gave my wife ten accu-pressure treatments, some at an office on Broadway in Manhattan, and the final few her in our apartment. Dr. Qui does house calls.
I got used to the fact that Danusia had big circular bruises on her back near her shoulder where the good doctor put heated glass cups to draw out the “negative energy.” After ten treatments she was satisfied and pain free and could lift her left arm above her shoulder with no trouble at all, success where western medicine had failed. I was just happy she stopped complaining about her shoulder and wasn’t bruised up anymore. I hated to think what others thought of her bruises, “I had accu-pressure” and people smiling and saying, “yeah, right.”
I am a huge skeptic, and after years of working for a former podiatrist turned shoe-salesman (he lost his licence during the Medicaid scandals of the 70’s) I knew that anything you put in your shoe was a short term balm doomed to failure. But still I carried on, day in and day out at work, limping and wincing until I was able to take off the hard as hell Chippewa work boots that were helping to cripple me every day. Still, my right foot hurt so much it was an ordeal just to walk the two blocks to the train station at Central Park west for the ride home.
On weekends I fared better, converse sneakers don’t offer a hell of a lot of support, but the heels are certainly softer than the boots. I tried another pair of boots I had at home, softer in the toes, but the heel was still hard. After a year of this I finally succumbed.
“Honey, does Dr. Qui do regular acupuncture?”
“You mean for your foot?”
“Yes, for my foot.”
“Of course he does, and I think it will help you. He fixed my shoulder, you know” and demonstrated by lifting both arms over her head and smiling. “See?” Yes, I see, I thought. My wife can be so cute at times.
“I’m so proud of you that you are taking steps to take care of yourself!” She called Dr. Qui right away and made the appointment.
“Dr. Qui will be here Sunday morning at ten” she announced.
The following Sunday morning, Dr. Qui made his way up the four flights of stairs leading to our apartment with difficulty. The guy looks to be somewhere in his mid seventies, so I’m not surprised. He has an assistant with him, a Chinese woman in her fifties who turns out to be his sister and an acupuncturist in training. And so the treatments begin. He sits in a chair by the couch and asks some basic questions.
“How long you have pain? You have x-ray? How you know this is heel spur?”
“Because I sold orthopedic shoes for thirteen years, that’s why.”
He has me lay down on the couch face down. Danusia has turned off the TV so we can all concentrate on the business of healing my foot. Sister Dr. opens up a small nylon case and begins to lay some tools on the table, and a little electronic box that looks like a cheap pre-amp.
Dr Qui holds my foot in one hand, and with the thumbnail of the other hand he begins to probe the bottom of my heel, applying pressure here and there.
The next time he didn’t have to ask. He pressed down on the spur, and I almost jerked my foot clean out of his hand.
“Yes, right there.” He took a ballpoint pen and made a little mark. A little more probing and he had triangulated the spot. He was ready to start sticking needles in me. He started by pulling my pants halfway down my ass, which elicited a snicker from sister-doctor trainee. I’d had acupuncture before, for knee pain and to quit smoking, so I knew the needle placement wouldn’t just be in my heel. But my ass? The doctor swabbed the spots he would be jabbing with alcohol. He then inserted needles into the upper part of my right gluteus, the upper part of my calf, two points on my ankle (ouch!) and the heel itself, of course.
Suddenly the toes of my right foot started twitching on their own, and I felt a throbbing sensation in my calf. My calf started contracting rhythmically as well. The doctor left his little electronic box to do it’s work and started chatting with Danusia. Danusia went and got her ipad and started taking pictures of the whole process. Dr. sister trainee pointed at my ass and snickering, said, “you take picture there!”
They were all having a jolly good time while I lay there face down without even my iphone to look at. I swore the TV would be on the next time Dr. Qui came for a visit. Presently the throbbing ended, and Dr. Qui sat back in the chair Danusia had provided him. He began to do something to my foot that I could not see. I could hear him tapping something into a small bowl Danusia had provided, and then, suddenly, my heel felt hot. I started to tense up and pull my heel away from the heat source. The doctor was heating up the needle in my heel with a cigarette lighter, I learned later when Danusia showed me the pictures she’d taken.
“Hot?” The doctor inquired.
“Yes, hot.” He dabbed something on to my heel and and the pain subsided. Then he got out a small device that looked like a little pistol with a suction cup at the end. He put it on the bottom of my heel and began to apply suction. It felt alright. Better than being jabbed or burned.
The treatment ended, Dr. Qui pulled out all the needles and Dr. Sister wrapped up my heel tight with an ace bandage I had laying around.
The next week was a repeat of the first, except I made sure to have my iphone handy and the paper to look at while they did their thing. The following week was the time change, and when Dr. Qui called the evening before to confirm the appointment for “Ten the crock” I should have reminded him to set his clock ahead. He called at ten thirty the following day to tell me he hadn’t and would be late. Danusia wasn’t home so I took the opportunity to leave the TV on and watched The Heroes Of Telemark with Kirk Douglas while the doctor did his work. Sister asked if the men on the screen were germans.
“Yes, they are Germans” I answered.
My heel was feeling better, but still hurt; and at $80 a pop I was wondering how many more times I was going to have to entertain Dr. Qui and his sister.
“Maybe one time more, maybe two.”
On the next to last visit, Danusia was away and I had to listen to sister take a phone call and chatter away in Chinese while trying to watch an episode of Girls. I wondered what they thought of Lena Dunham’s ass and tits.
The final treatment came, and after much discussion the week before I’d promised the doctor I would buy a new pair of shoes for work. I had done so and showed the shoes to Dr. Qui. He approved, but wanted me to cut a hole in the removable insole where the heel spur was. I agreed to do so just to placate him. I had made sure these shoes (Dr. Scholls’) were cushioned enough when i bought them, no need to go cutting little holes in them.
“Next week I don’t come, we rest, and see how you do, OK?”
“OK, Doc, I said.” And that was it. My foot doesn’t hurt as much, it’s certainly a lot better than it was before the treatments, but I guess I was expecting a miracle.