Road to recovery: Patient finds spiritual support a blessing

With the help of Unity Health Podiatrist Dr. Andrew Clothier, Janet Sample is recovering from a serious health problem.

by Taryn Brown

Janet Sample calls Unity Health Podiatrist Dr. Andrew Clothier a blessing, and now also a friend. Sample began her journey alongside Clothier back in August 2018. After a surgical boot worn for quite some time caused a wound to appear on her ankle, her ability to walk progressively digressed. 

She ended up in Clothier’s office in an interesting way. When she went in for cataract surgery, doctors found out she had a fever and could not do the surgery. Due to circumstances, she was unable to see her primary physician. She met with Unity Health general surgeon, Dr. Glen Blue, who referred her to the new podiatrist, Clothier. He had only been here a short time, and her initial thought was, “I do not have any problems with my toes!” Blue said she should go see him because he specializes in all things with the foot and ankle. 

Clothier diagnosed her with Charcot neuropathic osteoarthropathy, or Charcot foot. Today it is most commonly seen in diabetic patients with nerve damage.  

“With Charcot, the bone breaks down and becomes soft, and as patients walk on it, they cannot feel their foot, so they do not know they are doing damage,” Clothier said. 

In her case, the deformity happened over a period of time. Her ankle joint had broken down, making her foot sideways, but she could not feel it. She had been walking on her leg bone essentially and when it gets to that point, it is all about limb salvage, according to Clothier. Sample saw a number of doctors for her foot and had been told the only option was amputation. Clothier told her amputation was an option, but he also gave her the alternative of reconstructive surgery if she was willing. 

“I had made up my mind about amputation, and it is still a possibility,” Sample said, “It was hard to handle, but I was incredibly excited of the possibility Dr. Clothier could fix my foot.”

Charcot reconstruction is a complex surgery with complicated risks. Clothier said her success is due largely to the effort she put forth. 

“We went through an extensive workup and she had to show me she was going to be compliant,” Clothier said. “Her A1C levels were cut in half, and her blood sugar levels dropped significantly. She did her part and has continued to do so.”

When asked what she remembered most about this process, she said Clothier prayed with her at her first appointment and on surgery day, and his son even prayed for her. 

“I have never had a physician pray with me before,” Sample said. “You could feel the spirit in the room. It is hard to describe, but it was a blessing to have that spiritual support.”

Clothier said he feels like he can make a difference in a patient’s life physically whether because of chronic pain, a deformity or severe foot trauma, but hopefully also help them get through these trying times.

“It has been almost a year since she came into my office as a stranger, and after we have gone through this together, she is a friend, and my kids now know her by name. It has been a blessing for my son to see he had a part in this and his prayers and concern for a ‘neighbor’ made a difference.”

Today, Sample walks with a crow boot to provide added protection while her bones continue to fuse in the corrected position. She knows there is still a long journey ahead but is looking forward to hopefully walking with no assistance one day and playing with her grandkids.