The Ingrown Toenails of a Young Giant

I believe that I only experienced one negative physical side effect from my size. I have big feet. That’s a bit of an understatement. By the time I was in 8th grade, I wore a size 18. The other 6’8” guys that I knew did not have that big of shoes. I was unique. I had to order my shoes. This was before online shopping. I had to subscribe to a magazine for shoes, note the ones that went to size 18 (which were only 3 or 4 pairs of basketball shoes), and call a 1-800 number. A few weeks later, I could walk outside. 

I played football for 3 years and had only 1 pair of cleats. They were the type of cleats that could be refurbished. I screwed off the numbs on the bottom and replaced them with fresh and much larger numbs. 

The physical misfortune that befell me was toenail related. For years, I had ingrown toenails. Both of the nails on my big toes grew into the flesh of my toe. Everytime I took my socks off, I had red marks on the top of each sock. I bled everyday. 

While the toes did not hurt most of the time, they were extremely tender. If you stepped on my foot, I would howl in pain. It was sharper and more immediately painful than a blow to the family jewels. I would prefer a swift kick to the nuggets over an accidental pace on my foot. Whenever I saw the yellow Gadsden flag with the rattlesnake, I got it. Don’t Tread on Me. 

At first I tried some home remedies. I scraped the middle of my toenails lengthwise with a knife. The idea was to make the nail grow inward. Everyday in 8th grade, I came home, took my bloody sock off, grabbed a knife, and started scraping. 

Here, I think I should remind you that I later completed a Ph.D. 

I was also concerned with infection. I had hydrogen peroxide. I poured it on my toes everyday. It bubbled white. If I think about what life as an 8th grade boy was like, I think about the white foam of hydrogen peroxide on my tender toes. 

Eventually, the problem became so bad that I needed surgery. Outpatient surgery. No anesthesia. My mom took me to my pediatrician. He grabbed some pliers and said, “this is going to hurt.” 

My mom offered her hand for me to hold. I said, “I’ll break your hand.” 

The doc said, “Just hold 2 fingers.” 

After 40 minutes and a lot of pain, he burned part of my cuticle so I’ll never have an ingrown toenail again. The top of my toes are still a bit tender, but I was able to walk across the stage and accept my Ph.D. without a bloody sock.

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