I was diagnosed with chronic hypertension, a wonky heartbeat, and genetically high cholesterol over ten years ago. I became a vegetarian, tried everything from yoga to walking five miles a day, and sadly, nothing brought my numbers down except medication. Every morning I had to take five different prescriptions as well as gigantic horse pill-sized doses of potassium to keep from getting some of the lovely side-effects from my blood pressure meds. Like duck foot.
The first time I had an attack of duck foot I went into shock and laughed like a lunatic because that’s how I always handle tragedies. I could never suffer like a normal human being. I’d been noticing cramping in my legs that sometimes would awaken me in the middle of the night but grumpily blamed it on middle age and my insistence on wearing black leather boots with heels.
I would later learn that my potassium levels were dangerously low, but before the diagnosis, I innocently walked into the kitchen for a drink when a sharp spasm shot up my leg and I realized my toes were all spread out, frozen. I couldn’t move them or even push them back together. I started hopping around on my good leg, freaking out.
“What’s wrong?” asked my husband, from the floor where he sat watching the hockey game. Although his body had jerked to attention, he was used to my hypochondria and hysteria so he kept his eyes on the screen.
“I have duck foot! I have duck foot! Oh my God, help me, I’m in agony.”
He turned to see what I was talking about and he couldn’t help it, he started giggling, too.
“What can I do? How can I help?” Poor baby, he was practically gasping trying to keep a straight face while staring in alarm at my splayed foot.
“I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m turning into Daffy. I have webfoot. Ow, ow, ow.”
“Can I rub it for you?”
“What the hell will that do? I can’t freaking move my toes. Oh my god, I’m dying. What the fuck is this?”
“I have no idea. Only you. But calm down. What can I do for you?” He kept staring at my toes, incredulous. It really was something to see.
“I don’t know! Drive me down to the Schuylkill River where I can swim among my people!”
I ended up leaning on him while he somehow got me upstairs because I had the idea that submerging my foot in the bath would do the trick.
I ran my foot under hot water and kept trying to flex my toes until, finally, things went back to normal.
As any other highly intelligent being would do, I immediately raced to Web M.D. and diagnosed myself. After eliminating everything fatal or remotely scary, I decided it was in fact my choice of shoes and learned that when this condition arose, all I had to do was lie flat on the bed, stretch out my leg, grab hold of my foot and bring it towards my body. Hurt like hell but it worked.
But taking seven hundred fifty milligrams of prescription potassium twice a day worked even better.