Just Another Pair of Hands
   ​by Tommy Foster, Jr.

A lot of my memories of my brother, Timmy, contain numerous trips from our home in Louisville, MS to  Jackson, MS for clinic appointments; doctor visits; hospitalization and surgeries; physical therapy; wheelchair evaluations, measuring and fittings at both University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), and Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center (MMRC).  He always received the utmost excellence in his care; but what I observed and remember most of all the physicians, nurses, therapists, and caregivers was their kindness, patience and compassion.   They all displayed genuine concern and desire in doing all within their abilities for Timmy.

Timmy will always be my hero, and for 55 years, he courageously and with dignity, carried the burden of a body stricken at birth with cerebral palsy complicated with spastic quadriplegia.  His struggles were many, but it never stole his joy.  The countenance of his face along with that contagious smile voiced the happiness in his heart.  Oh, how I miss him! He is the inspiration for my sister, Debbie, being a Speech Language Pathologist; and for me being an Orthotist / Pedorthist.  

Being an Orthotist was not my first vocational choice.  As a child, I desired to be a Pediatric Neurosurgeon in hopes of finding a cure for Timmy.  This desire took me into my freshman year of college.  That first semester and chemistry really discouraged me.  Oh, how I wanted to work with and impact children's lives.  Little did I know then that my desire to work with children would still be a reality, but take me down a different path.

 In addition to an early interest in medicine, I also was very involved with Choir and Band in both Jr. High and High School.  This musical foundation provided me a financial aid scholarship the Fall Semester of my Freshman Year of College.  Medicine and music seemed to be a perfect balance, but I just wasn't at peace pursuing medicine.  After a lot of thought and prayer, I felt led to change my major to music with a concentration in sacred music and voice.  That career choice afforded me the wonderful opportunity of working with children for many years.  Little did I know that in 1995, I would be presented another career change returning me to my original career choice of medicine.  However, this time it would be in the field of allied health and the discipline of orthotics and pedorthics.

Around our tenth year of marriage, my wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and I was concerned with providing for her future medical needs and care. That is when God opened the door for me to attend the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and receive training and certification in orthotic treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle.  My new career as a Board Certified Pedorthist began; soon followed with my training and Board Certification as an Orthotist. 

These past 23 years have allowed me to serve on staff of several private O&P practices, in addition to two orthopaedic surgical practices.  It was in my first orthopaedic surgical practice staff position, I had the privilege of working with my friend, Dr. Scott Morris, MD.  Scott is a Board Certified Fellowship Trained Foot and Ankle Orthopaedist in Birmingham, AL.  On many occasions, I witnessed him talking with his patients during their pre-op examination. One statement that he always said was, "I just want to remind you that I am not going to be your healer;  God is The Great Physician;  I am just another pair of hands ".  Since that time, I've adopted that same approach and philosophy with all the children, youth and adults I am blessed to have as patient referrals.

Everyone who ever cared for Timmy, were that pair of hands! That is especially true of my Mama who tenderly cradled him in her arms at his birth; bathed, clothed, fed and carried him all his life; and gently caressed him when he was gloriously transformed from being absent from his body to being present with the Lord. 

I once heard an inner city pastor in Birmingham, AL say "It's not your titles in life that people are really going to remember you by... it's your testimony".  Personally, the desire for my testimony is that every patient referral I have the privilege of helping, will remember me as someone who genuinely truly cared, and that the effort of my hands made a difference.   

(Tommy Foster, Jr. is Clinical Director, Orthotics at SME Clinic located in Raleigh, NC)