Sherri Fleming, CFts, is proud of her crisp white lab coat with a
patch that says she is an ABC-certified therapeutic shoe fitter.
Yet Fleming, staff shoe fitter at Rice Pharmacy in Beaver Dam, Ky.,
population 3,300, admits she doesn’t always wear her white coat when she
sees her diabetes patients.
“The coat intimidates some people,” she said. “It’s
kind of like my daddy when I used to take him to the doctor. He’d be so
sick the night before, but when we’d get to the doctor he’d be
well.” On the other hand, “when I put on the white coat, it makes
some people think I know what I’m doing,” she said. Fleming, loves
what she does. “This is not about selling shoes,” she said.
“This is about helping my patients keep from losing a limb.”
She said diabetes cuts short the lives of many Kentuckians.
“It’s not just elderly people any more. I am seeing more and more
young people who are obese and have diabetes and are not taking care of
Before she became a certified shoe fitter, Fleming spent 14 years
working for car dealerships in nearby Greenville, where she still lives. She
confessed she knew little about the danger of diabetes.
Diabetes’ role in other diseases
Before she became a certified shoe fitter, Fleming knew little about the dangers of diabetes.
Images: Berry Craig, O&P Business News.
“I’d hear about somebody who died of heart disease, or kidney
disease or infection,” she said. “But a lot of people have heart
disease and kidney disease because of diabetes. People can also have an
infection and lose a foot because of diabetes, and it goes on and on. I
didn’t realize it was such a terrible disease.”
Fleming said more than a few of her patients are unaware that diabetes
can claim limbs and lives. “They take something for a stomach ache, and
they feel better. They think if they just take insulin, they will be all right.
They don’t know the effect of diabetes on their bodies, especially their
Diabetes can result in peripheral neuropathy.
“They lose feeling in their feet. One of my patients, another
little old lady, came in to see me, and when I examined the bottom of her foot,
I found a rock embedded in it. She didn’t realize it was there because the
bottom of her foot was numb.”
Thus, Fleming preaches foot care to her patients with almost missionary
zeal. “It can mean the difference between saving a toe or a foot and
losing a toe or a foot. Of course, all of us are guilty of not paying attention
to our feet. We wash them when we take a shower or a bath and forget them. You
can’t do that if you have diabetes.”
She urges her patients to carefully inspect their feet daily.
“I also give them tips like never rubbing lotion between the toes
because moisture builds up between the toes, and lotion can cause the skin to
break down. That can lead to ulcers, and they can lead to the loss of
Fleming educates her patients about how shoes and inserts work together
to help them. “Inserts are especially important. You want to protect the
toes and the heels most of all. They’re the parts of the foot most likely
to be injured.”
|Fleming educates her patients about the benefits of inserts to protect the toes and heels.|
Inserts are supposed to cradle the foot and keep it stable in the shoe.
She prepares heat molded inserts in her small in-store lab. “But I also
take impressions with the foam box and send it away to the lab at Dr. Comfort
Fleming is partial to the Dr. Comfort line. “They really last, and
that’s important in our area. A lot of my patients are on Medicaid. For
some of them, the shoes they get from me are the only shoes they have.”
Patients who are not on Medicare or Medicaid and cannot pay for their
shoes are not turned away at Rice’s Pharmacy. The owner, Levi Rice, has
flashed Fleming the green light to give shoes to needy patients.
“It’s built into my budget,” she said. “He also provides
shoes anonymously to needy people in our area. It’s a good feeling to work
for a boss like that.”
Fleming said patients feel good when their shoe fitter takes time to get
to know them. “It’s about spending time with them and getting to know
them and their needs and learning about their kids and grandkids. It’s
about making a difference in their lives. We don’t just talk about shoes
and inserts. We visit.”
She sees patients in a small room off the pharmacy’s main sales
floor. “I carry several different lines of shoes so they can at least have
a choice. But it all depends on the condition of their feet and what their
doctor has prescribed.
“For example, if they have bad circulation, you want to make sure
that the shoe they are getting doesn’t bind the foot. If somebody has a
pre-callus, you want to make sure that part of the foot is never being rubbed
by the shoe.”
She confessed that her shoe lines are less than stylish. “But
they’re a lot more fashionable than they used to be,” she said. When
patients balk at wearing sensible shoes, “I ask them, ‘Do you want to
risk losing a toe or a foot, or do you want to wear these shoes?’ That
usually convinces them.”
For diabetes patients away from the pharmacy, she puts on programs for
local organizations and nursing home residents. “I reach out to a lot of
people who have diabetes, such as people who work in factories. A lot of them
can get shoes through their insurance at work.”
She warns against people who sell diabetic footwear out of motel rooms.
“They’re completely outside of the caring part of working with
patients with diabetes. They’re just trying to sell shoes. The patient
goes in and the people ask ‘What size?’ They write it down and then
mail them their shoes, which often don’t fit. But by then, the people are
the next state. But I’m here all the time.”
She also points to what fly-by-night operators do not have — ABC
Fleming would like to hang another framed certificate on her wall.
“I wouldn’t mind becoming a board certified pedorthist. The more I do
my job, the more I like it.
“Fitting is more of an art than a science,” she said.
“You can measure somebody’s foot correctly but that doesn’t make
you a fitter. A fitter is somebody who goes beyond just getting the right size.
Fitters know the right shoes for their patients. Fitters also take the time to
listen to their patients. You don’t know how a little old man’s foot
feels inside the shoe, you can’t tell by feeling from the outside. So you
let him tell you.
“I love what I do. I look forward to coming to work every