Three days ago, at my new part time job in Beaverton, I spent most of my day on my feet running about and helping customers.  Towards the end, I felt a slight pain in my left foot, particularly around my big toe.  Most people would brush this off, just say that their feet were sore after a long day at work.  And I’m sure that’s what happened to me.

But I was terrified.  This pain shook me to my core because I remember what happened the last time I had felt it in my left toe.  After work I immediately stopped by the local Whole Foods to pick up some black cherry juice, some baking soda, and some Ibuprofen.  I bought two bottles and drank them both that night, then downed two glasses of water with a spoonful of baking soda mixed into each (and it tasted as pleasant as it sounds).

Why those two things?  And why would I feel such terror over such a minor pain in my foot?



It was the Fall of 2010.  I had just left my crappy warehouse job and was in my first month at my new part-time job, and I was eager to please.  At my crappy warehouse job (which inspired a brief arc in “Oh Goodie!”) I was walking on concrete for eight hours a day in uninsulated 90 degree heat, so pain in my feet and joints weren’t unheard of.  At my new part-time job I was moving at a much quicker pace on a linoleum floor, so the occasional foot pain didn’t surprise me there either.

So imagine my surprise when the brittle feeling in my left foot started feeling worse and worse.  More than that, it started to look red and inflamed.  One night the pain finally reached a point where it was so intense I literally couldn’t sleep.  I rubbed Ben-Gay on it to see if that would dull the pain, but to no effect.  I had a store meeting the next day at 5PM, so I needed my rest beforehand, but this pain wasn’t letting me sleep.  Even slightly bumping it or touching it caused me crippling agony.

This wasn’t merely sore joints.  This was something else entirely.

I finally lurched out of bed at two in the morning and threw my coat over my pajamas, deciding to head to the Emergency Room.  The pain was so intense by that point I couldn’t even put a sock over my foot, much less a shoe, so my left foot went bare.  I managed to drive down to Central Dupage Hospital, where an orderly across the parking lot clearly saw I was in a lot of pain and quickly retrieved a wheelchair for me.

I was quickly led to a doctor who took my blood and urine samples.  After waiting for what felt like forever (and doesn’t it always in these situations) he came back and told me I had a case of Gout.

For those who don’t know what Gout is, it’s basically a form of super arthritis.  It happens when a build-up of uric acid in your body crystallizes on your joints (most commonly on the joints of your big toe) and causes it to become swollen.  Uric acid builds up in your body when you ingest a lot of purines and don’t expound it properly through diuretics like coffee or fruit juice.  Really though, Gout can occur in anybody who ingests a lot of rich food, alcohol, or sugar, and it’s a misconception that it only happens with older people who have actual arthritis.

That being said though, what does or doesn’t cause Gout is ill-defined.  I’ve read reports of twenty-something vegetarians or vegans who don’t ingest one ounce of rich food and still get it.  In my case though, it wasn’t hard to figure out what caused it.  At the time I was downing three cups of coffee in the morning, three cans of Coke in the afternoon, and three beers at night with dinner.  It basically amounted to a negative chemical reaction in my body, and I was paying the price.  You can see why I cut way back on my soda consumption after this.

Make no mistake, Gout pain is some of the worst you will ever experience.  I’ve heard people who have taken a bullet wound say that the bullet wound hurts less than Gout.  Imagine a red hot drill bit slowly being ground into the side of your big toe, and the slightest touch or breeze can turn you into a bubbling mess from the pain.  THAT’S what Gout feels like.

The doctor told me that it looked like a minor case and that as long as I ingested black cherry juice (to expound the uric acid) and had an occasional glass of water with baking soda in it (to keep my body alkaline) it should go away rather quickly.  Well, all well and good, but how was I supposed to sleep or be ready for my store meeting the next day?  He prescribed me some Vicodin to help me sleep and sent me on my way.

…There are fewer things on this Earth sadder than a grown 20-something male standing in the middle of an empty Walgreens at five in the morning wearing nothing but his pajamas and with one bare foot exposed, crying in pain while waiting for his Vicodin prescription to be filled.

I returned home just as the sun was rising, left a note for my parents BEGGING THEM not to disturb me, downed the Vicodin, and finally fell asleep.  When I awoke at 4PM the next day, the pain hadn’t subsided at all. Still, I had to make my store meeting, didn’t I?  I was still new and wanted to get in good with my new co-workers.  All I had to do was sit there and listen to my manager talk at us for three hours.  I could do this!

I got dressed and drove over to the store, left foot exposed (naturally).  I’m sure I looked a sight when my co-workers saw me hobbling across the parking lot, one foot bare.  My co-worker Amy saw what horrible pain I was in and quickly retrieved a stool for me to prop my foot up on.  Despite the pain and being whacked out on Vicodin, I made it through the meeting (though obviously I don’t remember much).

I weakly told my manager I didn’t think I’d be able to come in for my shift the next day.  He more than understood.  At this point I’m sure he was slightly horrified by my current state, to which I don’t blame him.  He told me to just go home and get some rest, and come back when I was better.

I swear, the things I do to make a good impression.

The next three days were a haze.  All I remember is sleeping and barely eating, terrified that the slightest rich or fatty food would make the dreaded Gout worse.  I spent so much time in bed I’m surprised my muscles didn’t atrophy.  Finally it gradually began to fade and I was able to return to work before the week was out.

I had never been so grateful to be able to put on a shoe.


So nowadays, if I’ve spent the day walking around and I feel the slightest pang of pain in my right foot?

…Yea, forgive me if I panic a little.