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Diabetes patients receive free specialty shoes

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A specialty shoe company has given hundreds of new shoes to diabetes patients in Bartholomew County.

Wednesday’s giveaway was through the Volunteers in Medicine’s Shoe Blitz event, where patients could stop in at the VIM offices and be fitted with a free pair of the specialty shoes.

The shoes, from New Jersey-based specialty company Orthofeet, cost $100 to $140 a pair and are specially made to assist those with diabetes.

Some people with diabetes suffer symptoms such as poor blood circulation and neuropathy, which causes loss of sensation in their feet, said Lucina Kessler, diabetes clinical nurse specialist with Columbus Regional Health. The shoes that were given away are made to help those patients with those issues, she said.

Columbus resident Kathleen Dabrio heard from a friend that Volunteers in Medicine was giving away the shoes and decided to stop in to be fitted for a pair.

“I suffer with (plantar fasciitis), and these are the shoes that I’m supposed to be wearing. These bring the balance,” she said. “You can wear these shoes all day. You can spend eight hours in them, and you’re good to go with no problem.”

Kessler said that while these shoes will help, diabetes patients should always check their feet daily, especially if they are suffering from neuropathy.

A minor irritation or cut can go unnoticed and develop into a blister, ulcer or a much more serious problem, she said.

Tricia Souza, who is volunteering at VIM and documented the inventory of shoes, said the shoes themselves are built with a firm, stronger sole than normal shoes.

They’re also wider and provide more comfort than an average shoe. Both of those features are important for those with diabetes, Kessler added.

“People with diabetes have lower extremity issues. Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations between the ages of 12 and 74,” she said. “Keeping the feet active and proper foot care is very important. So many amputations can be prevented, and wearing a shoe that fits well is very important.”

The Orthofeet donation amounted to more than 780 pairs of shoes valued in total at about $100,000.

The donation was part of a partnership between Orthofeet and the American Association of Diabetes Education.

Volunteers in Medicine received an email a few months ago from Orthofeet asking if it would be interested in a shoe donation, Kessler said.

The organization had requested 100 pairs but received 780, she said. At the end of the event, VIM had 504 pairs of shoes left to give out, 484 of which are women’s shoes.

While Volunteers in Medicine was happy to have so many pairs to give away to patients who couldn’t afford the shoes, the variety of sizes that were sent could make finding a match to a patient a process that could take time, Kessler said.

“We do have a disparity in the sizes themselves, and the majority of them are women’s,” she said.

The shoes came in different colors and styles from black work boots to blue walking shoes.

Leftover shoes from Wednesday’s event will be distributed to various doctor’s offices in Bartholomew County to be given away to other patients.

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