By DR KENNETH D KEMP
I have flat feet. My mom has flat feet, my dad, my siblings, my cousins. We’re just a happy flat-footed Cartwright family. It’s certainly just conjecture but I suspect most Long Islanders like us are also flat footed. No DNA test required. Granted I boast some high-quality Kemp blood from Eleuthera but I haven’t met a lot of flat-footed Eleuthera patients except for my friend David from Tarpum Bay and he’s quite possibly just an anomaly. More research is required before any sound conclusions are made, however. Nonetheless, I have flat feet and having flat feet most certainly altered the trajectory of my life.
When I was younger, I loved to play soccer in school. Unlike a three-tier athlete like Colin Kaepernick who excelled at football, basketball and baseball, soccer was pretty much the only sport I enjoyed.
Many years later I fell in love with tennis but playing soccer, which requires a significant number of quick pivots and turns, caused a great deal of foot pain.
By the time I got to college I had to see a podiatrist and was prescribed shoe insoles. My foot pain went away and I’ve dedicated my life since then to doing the same for other patients. Before that I wanted to either be a paediatrician, cardiologist or a master ninja and truth be told, being a ninja is still on the table.
But being a physician required 15-plus years of post-high school education.
I’ve often told younger Bahamians that to be successful in this country you have to excel in either education, sports or arts and entertainment.
Do that and you can write your own ticket in life. But because I excelled at education, most people erroneously believe I loved school. In actuality I hated school. In fact, I drove my kindergarten teacher insane because I constantly snuck out of class to find my older sister, Kenya.
She was in high school and I knew the school must have made a mistake separating us so anytime my teacher turned around, I’d leave to find her.
Every period she changed classrooms, which annoyed me tremendously, but eventually I found her and proceeded to sit next to her. The first time it happened she held my hand and defiantly walked me out of her classroom. I immediately assumed she had devised a fantastical plan for our escape, but to my perpetual dismay she instead took me back to class in a cruel and treacherous act of betrayal. But such are the sharp vicissitudes of life that one must conquer at an early age. This happened at least once a day for over a year.
But karma always wins and by the time I got to high school, my younger sister Keisha did the same thing to me. My mom says I gave my teacher a nervous breakdown but I seriously doubt she left that year because of me. I seriously doubt it.
Then in grade one, I met my teacher Ms Dawkins. There was just something about her. She was so warm, motherly and kind so, trust me when I say I never left her class.
Not even once. Even at lunch when all the kids went to play, I stayed with her.
I’d give her one of my cookies and she’d give me some of her chocolate milk.
Years later I found out it was Slim Fast and so I credit her with my first indirect introduction to weight loss and nutrition. My grade two teacher in comparison was an abysmal disappointment but only because Ms Dawkins had set the bar so high and those fingerprints don’t fade. To this day she remains my greatest all-time favourite teacher and I recently shared this story to the patient featured in today’s report.
Also a teacher by profession and at age 39, this patient is the epitome of grace under fire. We first met over a year ago when she sought my help in treating a wound on her foot that has since successfully healed. She has been living with Diabetes for 15 years and her other comorbidities include anaemia, high blood pressure and thyroid disease.
At a time when her life was just getting started, she suffered a stroke but fortunately recovered with no focal deficits. Prolonged and elevated blood sugar and pressure levels, however, caused sustained damage to the blood vessels in her kidneys and she therein developed kidney disease and ultimately kidney failure.
She is now one of many Bahamians who has to receive dialysis three times per week, hoping to some day receive a kidney transplant.
And yet despite her medical encumbrances her outlook has always remained extraordinarily positive.
Where others would have fallen, she has thrived. She works full-time and is incredibly philanthropic by nature constantly trying to devise ways to give back to the kids in her community.
She is determined to not let her situation stop her from living her life to the fullest and engages in as many activities as she so desires.
True character is revealed over time and under pressure and this incredibly funny unsung hero represents the best of humanity.
She, moreover, provides a mirror for us all to reflect upon how we deal with our own challenges in life and reminds us daily that whomsoever God protects is well protected.
I have flat feet and I suspect if I hadn’t, I’d have an entirely different career – one where we may not have been able to communicate once a week.
In life you have to play the cards you’re dealt with and in my case being able to speak to you so often is my version of a royal flush.
So, for that I say thank you and offer my sincerest gratitude to all the world’s teachers who remain evermore and monumentally impactful with each passing day.
• Nick-named ‘The Prince of Podiatry’, Dr. Kenneth D. Kemp is the founder and medical director of Bahamas Foot and Ankle located in Caves Village, Western New Providence. He served as the Deputy chairman for the Health Council for 5 years and he currently sits on the board of directors for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation in his role as co-Vice-chairman.