By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — Kirk Livingood has been experiencing foot pain for more than a year. He’s also experienced barriers to seeking treatment. Upon hearing about Iowa City Catholic Worker’s free foot clinic, he thought, “Hey, I ought to head over there and check it out.”
He was among 14 individuals who took advantage of the inaugural monthly foot clinic on Feb. 17. Core volunteer David Goodner explained, “We know it is a critically needed service and because we are inspired by John 13 when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and told them to wash each other’s feet.”
Iowa City-area family physician Dr. Tom Novak and his daughter, Nicole Novak, recently approached Iowa City Catholic Worker about the idea of starting a foot clinic at Catholic Worker’s hospitality house. Nicole formerly served as a resident volunteer at a Catholic Worker house in Ann Arbor, Mich., and saw the kind of impact foot clinics had there.
She noted that people come to foot care clinics for a lot of different reasons. “There are definitely some guests with very particular foot care needs, especially if they spend long hours walking, face barriers to keeping their feet warm and dry, or cannot access supportive shoes or nail and skin care supplies. Things like ingrown toenails or small wounds can get complicated if someone is staying outside and doesn’t have the opportunity to keep their feet dry. Some people also have medical issues that affect their feet, such as diabetes, and others have limited flexibility that makes it harder to care for their feet.”
It turned out to be an easy sell. Goodner said Iowa City Catholic Worker has wanted to offer a free foot clinic since opening its doors a little over two years ago. They’re grateful the Novaks helped to “get the ball rolling.”
At the foot clinic, guests could receive a foot exam, nail trimming, corn and callus trimming, and consultations on ingrown nails and foot circulation from Dr. Novak and another family physician, Dr. Liz Loeb.
The foot clinic included non-medical services, too. “We get a lot of different kinds of Epsom salts and bubble bath so people could make their own custom foot soak solution, and we had a bunch of different types of lotion to choose from,” Nicole Novak said. “Some of us were joking that we needed some Enya or some other relaxing music… I’ll work on that for next time.”
Livingood said he almost fell asleep during his foot massage. “It was so relaxing and enjoyable.”
Nicole and her husband were joined by local Catholics Cheryl Schropp and Jean Hogan in helping with the non-medical aspects of the clinic. They set up foot baths, massaged feet with lotion, painted toenails and helped set up guests with new socks and shoe insoles. A few Catholic Worker guests helped out, as well.
One group of women came to the foot care event to celebrate an upcoming wedding. Nicole Novak said, “They told me that they had not visited the Catholic Worker house before but when they heard about the foot clinic they thought it would be a fun way to spend time together and relax. They picked out really great nail polish colors and were so much fun to have around.”
Sanitation was a priority, Nicole said. “We clean all the tubs and implements with a bleach solution between each person to make sure we are keeping people safe and healthy!”
After having some issues taken care of and receiving advice from the doctors at the clinic, Livingood is feeling relief and looks forward to participating in the next foot clinic March 17. “Since (the clinic), my feet have been feeling much better.”
Catholic Worker is looking for medical professionals and non-medical volunteers to help with their free foot clinics, which occur the third Saturday of the month. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.