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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pies y Ampollas, Blisters and Feet

Everyone on the camino is a blister expert.

I have heard all sorts of methods for the proper way to treat blisters: Use Compeed. Don´t use Compeed whatever you do. Pop the blisters. Sew thread through your blisters. Wear your socks inside-out. Don´t wash your socks. Put vaseline on your feet. Put olive oil on your feet.

On the third day of walking I began trying out all the various methods. I first went with the traditional Dutcher method of moleskin. That came off within a couple hours. So I put on Compeed. That also came off within a couple hours. A young Danish girl I was walking with explained to me how putting thread through the blister keeps the blister from closing, allowing it to drain, the thread acting as a wick while the new skin grows from beneath. So I tried it. And it worked.

I´ve also heard that you should only pop them, because the thread introduces bacteria to the area. While I agree with this to an extent, if you only pop them they will fill up again within a few hours. I´ve tried other methods as well, but the one I´ve found that works best is the thread method, and I apply a sort of iodine/betadine liquid to the needle, the thread, and the blister.

Here´s something I wrote in my diary while I was in Logrono:

"I took a nap. When I woke up the man on the mattress next to me started talking to me in Spanish. I was tired and could barely understand and wished he would stop talking. As I became more awake I understood more. He was from Mexico. He lectured me on my feet and blisters, made me put my feet up, made me go wash my feet. Next thing I knew I was sitting in a chair with the Mexican and three Spanish men around me, all looking at and touching my feet, talking about blister care entirely in Spanish. One of them took up my right foot and and used a needle to pop a blister on my heel, and bathed it in iodine. He bandaged another blister on my big toe. The Spaniards left, and the Mexican massaged vaseline into my feet."

A Danish man I know likes to say that the Camino is the only place where you can walk up to a stranger and say, "Where are you from? How are your feet?" I often think about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.

Some days I take off my boots after walking 25 k, and my feet hurt so much, blisters and calluses pruny with sweat, and I don´t even want to touch them, or look at them, just put them away from me and pretend they are not there. It was like this the day I left Leon. I didn´t want to touch my feet, but I really wanted someone else to, not a massage, just human touch. The hospitalero was a physical therapist and good with blisters, and the pilgrims I ate dinner with urged me to show him my blisters. I went to the kitchen (as well as being a physical therapist and an hospitalero, he was also a wonderful cook) and only had to say "Tengo ampollas" before I found myself sitting in the kitchen with my left foot in the man´s lap and another hospitalera sterilizing a needle.

He looked at the mess of a blister on my big toe and asked if I had problems with work or school. When I said no, he told me I was solitary, lonely. I remembered that morning when I had left the Belgian in Leon, telling him "I walk the camino alone." The two hospitaleros explained in a mixture of English and Spanish that the man could tell my problems from the placement of my blisters, like reflexology. He popped my blisters, bandaged them, and massaged me feet.

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