How A Bad Pedicure Can Derail Your Life


About a month ago, I got a pedicure. Thought everything went well.

Fast forward to last week. I’m in NYC for annual doctor appointments and the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar. It’s also my birthday week.

I’m catching up with my cousins, reconnecting with Z, hanging with A. Having a fabulous time.

But for one problem. My big toe hurts. I can’t see anything causing the pain, but it’s tender and aching and slightly red.

So I poke around with a Q-tip, trying to find the source of the problem.

Two nights later, the toe has developed a heartbeat and it’s swollen. Uh-oh.

So on Wednesday, my birthday, I go to a walk-in clinic for treatment.

The doctor takes one look at the swollen red toe with a white pus pocket near the surface and tells me it’s too far along for antibiotics alone to work.

We are going to have to lance it.

I tell him I have a conference the next two days.

He says we have to do it. Or the infection could get way worse.

That’s when he jabs 4 needles into my toe to numb it. Before the numbness, it’s searing, burning, screaming-swears painful.

I mention it’s my birthday and he says that pedicurist gave you one hell of a present. Seems that if she had cut my toe nail straight instead of rounding the edges, I would never get the ingrown toe nail which led to the infection and the pus pocket, Paronychia.

When my toe no longer senses pain or touch, he gets out his scalpel and lances the side of my toe. Squeezes out all the pus. Blood and other liquids come out too.

Unfortunately, I’m on aleve for the pain and it looks like he slaughtered a small pig on the table. I try not to look because seeing my own blood makes me want to pass out.

Ofc, there are no nail clippers there. Fortunately, we are in a Duane Reade walk in clinic so I tell him to go grab a pair and I’ll buy them. I want to make sure we deal with this effectively.

He spends roughly half an hour on my foot. Has to call in backup to get out sterilized water and gauze because his gloves are bathed in my blood. Then he cleans up my toe and bandages it. My toe is twice the normal size.

It’s still numb while I give the pharmacy my script for antibiotics and pick up some bandages.

He tells me to take aleve for the pain-when it comes on.

It’s only 1 block back to my A’s apt. I hobble there.

And then the fun begins. The pain injections wear off. My toe throbs and aches. Sharp shooting pain from the tip of my toe into my ankle. Every hour worsens the pain.

A and I scrap plans for a bday dinner in Chinatown and end up at a place 3 blocks from his apartment. It takes me 15 minutes to hobble over there.

It takes a few drinks to make it through dinner.

The pain is unrelenting and unbearable. My brain feels close to shock. It cannot process this type of pain. I become prone to maniacal laughter followed by hysterical crying. Aleve doesn’t touch it.

But I have to go to my conference. So at 6:45 am I wake up and get dressed. Limp to subway. Hobble to conference. And endure criticism while secretly fantasizing about cutting my own toe off. Just to escape the pain.

By the time I get home Thursday, it’s swollen. The big toe, all my other toes, my entire foot, and the ankle. Uh-oh.

I try to sleep with my foot propped up. The next day the swelling comes down a bit but the pain is worse. A lends me his men’s size 11 shoes. I’m a women’s 9.5, but they fit.

I cab to and from conference and keep my foot elevated all day.

My poor father has to drive down to NYC to pick me up, because I’m crippled by this and can’t do the most basic things. Like take the subway and walk to the train platform in Grand Central.

I also had to skip out on a couple panels at the conference to manage the pain. I made sure I attended all the workshops.

This, my friends, is how a bad pedicure can completely derail your life for a week.

I will never let anyone touch my feet again.

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44 Responses to How A Bad Pedicure Can Derail Your Life

  1. berry says:

    Ouch. Be careful blood poison.

    • It’s terrible that such a tiny thing can cause such havoc on the body. It’s super painful. Still can’t walk much. That was my concern too and why I let him lance it. I’m on antibiotics and the toe seems to be healing. Fingers crossed.

  2. Ouch! Great descriptions, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Oh my gosh. That is the worst thing EVER!!! I have never had a pedicure for just this reason (I’ve heard so many horror stories!) but my mother almost, almost talked me into one this weekend, “my treat, for Mother’s Day”. I’m so happy I said no!
    (Did you ever go back and ream them out where you had it done?)

    • I’m still dealing with it months later. The nail is growing in and starting to head into the cuticle again. I’m monitoring it but when they cut out a section of your toenail it can grow in again and again. I was pain free from Jan-May but it is acting up again. I got tons of pedicures over the years but now, never again! I think as long as you don’t let them clip or file your toe nails it might be okay, but I’ll never chance it again. I didn’t ever ream them out. I don’t think it was intentional. Also, I don’t think they’d admit it was their fault or be willing to learn from it. So I figured life lesson for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • S-h-u-d-d-e-r-!!! And take heart in the fact that I’ll take that life lesson, vicariously, through you! Sending some healing mojo your way ๐Ÿ™‚

        • Yeah it’s pretty horrible to have problems with your feet. The amount of pain I felt from the ingrown toenail was bad, but nothing like what I felt after he lanced the side of cuticle and cut out half my toe nail. It was like being tortured for days on end. Everytime I put weight on the foot I wanted to scream. So far it’s tender but not re-infected. I may have to go see the podiatrist next week. Ugh.

      • nmnygal says:

        I too just had bad pedi. My mom has suggested to soak feet in warm water with a little white vinegar every night which helps with fungus.etc.

  4. Hi Kourtney, it’s scary how fast these things can develop. Did it heal?

    • Naomi, it really is. And foot problems totally derail your life. The problem with ingrown toenails is that even when they are extracted they tend to grow back that way. Having some pain in my toe this week. I think it might be starting to grow into the cuticle again. Luckily, I’m good at catching the signs. ๐Ÿ™‚ Seeing podiatrist on Monday to make sure I nip it in the bud.

  5. Pingback: The Tale of the Ingrown Toenail–The Final Chapter « Kourtney Heintz's Journal

  6. Ouch – this is painful to read about. Sorry this happened to you.

  7. Alex says:

    Ouch, ouch, ouch. But I hear you! I found your blog after searching something on Google along the lines of “Paronychia I’m going to die help kill me”. I got my finger lanced today and the throbbing is relentless and the lancing itself was one of the most painful experiences ever. It’s 4am here in Chicago and I just can’t sleep due to the pain–even with the Vicodin! To think I was just going to ignore it and let it work itself out…I was told that by the looks of it, in a few days it would have spread to my
    hand. Anyway, not much to add, except that it’s nice to know I’m not alone, though I would never want another to experience tpain awful pain. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • It was pretty awful. The doctor didn’t give me vicodin. He told me to take Aleve for the pain. The pain was horrific. Especially since I was putting weight on a lanced toe. Worst experience ever in terms of pain. 5 days of unrelenting agony. But it passes. And the good news is you caught it in time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry you were up at 4am in pain.

      I have never gotten a pedicure since then and never will. Not worth the risk. Wishing you lots of healing and much less pain!
      Kourtney

  8. Painful, horrified shiver. I’m a runner and have seen gross toes, but this–this sounds horrible. Shiver. Giggle.

    • Feet things are pretty horrible. Especially if you can’t stay off them. You never realize how important and how painful your feet can be. I will never ever let anyone pedicure me again. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. People always make fun of me not wanting a pedicure – but I have a real fear of this happening – you aren’t the only one I’ve heard. Feet are a big issue – broke a toe just before a big conference in some lovely mountains – and I had to go, had to stand and sell the company and their books – and couldn’t wear the right shoes – or go hiking (now that’s the biggest tragedy). You are right – you don’t appreciate your feet until there’s a problem!
    Hope it’s better now! (you’ve got to dance now!)

    • Whenever someone suggests a pedicure to me now, I cringe. It’s really awful. I had to keep getting the nail dug out and then have it grow back in. It was a year of agony and not wearing closed toe shoes. And my toenail still looks bad. Eek–broken toe sounds horrible, especially at a conference. And unable to explore the mountains. Double bad experience. I never realized how important my toe was until it started hurting and I started hobbling.

      Toe is 100% painfree now. Dancing is allowed. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. That sounded the horror story to end all horror stories. I’m not squeamish but even I was wincing for you.
    I’m delighted to know you can do a Ginger Rogers impression again.
    xxx Hugs xxx

    • Toe things are terrible. You never realize how important your feet are until something goes wrong. It was painful and frustrating to have it keep growing back in too. Glad that saga has finally ended.

      Hugs,
      Kourtney

  11. Yikes! This is why I’ve never had a pedicure, Kourtney! I do my owe toes and fingernails. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Debb Stanton says:

    Hey Kourtney – sorry you had such a terrible experience. My big toes also had the ‘p’ word – I think mine was due to the pedicure lady putting my feet in a whirlpool bath that must have had thousands of germs in it! Then, she cut the nails too short. I used to advise people all the time to go get a pedicure, it is so relaxing and so good to do something nice for yourself. Well, I’ve changed my tune! ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Alice says:

    What a horrific story! ๐Ÿ™ I got a pedi last night and she was poking inside my toenails, I guess trying to clean it? It really hurt while she was doing it but she kept saying “it will be ok”. It didnยดt hurt after the pedi. But this morning it hurts and itยดs red around the toe nail. Should I be worried? Or should I just wait a few days? Iยดm thinking of never getting a pedi again.

    • It was awful. Luckily it’s all healed now and I don’t let anyone touch my feet anymore. If it’s red, probably a good idea to see a doctor. The earlier you catch it the easier it is to treat. And yeah, I’d just let them paint nails from now on. No clipping or cleaning. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  14. lindacovella says:

    I was just cringing throughout your story. Horrible! But I want to congratulate you on making it from “aspiring” to “published”! So exciting. I will be there myself next month. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    • It was awful. And horribly painful. Thanks. It’s been a long road from aspiring to published! Congrats. Hope all goes well with your release! Thanks for popping in here too!

  15. Stan Bell says:

    I know how it feels. I had this horrible experience 3 years ago when I treated myself to a spa pedicure after I ran the marathon. Few days later it started hurting and then I noticed redness and over night it has developed into a very painful abscess on the side of my big toe nail. I just took antibiotic and antifungal cream but it took several weeks to cure it,

    • You’re very lucky that the antibiotics worked.:) Having my toe cut open a few times was agonizing. I never realized how much pain a toe could bring down. I will never go to a spa again for a pedicure. Even now I get nervous trimming my toe nails.

  16. You should probably get that checked out by a doctor. If it’s an infection, you want to get it treated properly. Sounds like it could very well be an ingrown toe nail. Hope everything turns out well. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Amy K. says:

    OMG you poor thing. that doc should have recommended a boot for your foot (open toe with Velcro and rounded bottom) so that no pressure is on your foot when you walk. I tore (grade 2) a muscle underneath my big toe and I couldn’t even stand. It was a freak thing that just happened out of no where. That boot was a lifesaver since the doc told me not to put pressure on it for 30 days. It worked, the toe was sore when touched but amazingly I was able to walk with that boot.

    • Thanks. It was a few years ago, so I’m doing great now. I never let anyone touch my feet and life is so much better for it! Glad your doctor gave you a boot. The duration and reoccurring were the worst parts for me.

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