PT – Poor Toes

My son’s name is Gabriel. He’s 16 years old and he’s awesome. He’s also on the Autism Spectrum, minimally verbal, and has sensory processing issues, with a side order of anxiety and OCD. For the last 18 months he’s lived with increasing discomfort from ingrowing toenails. They bleed. He hobbles. This morning my minimally verbal child who has an unusually high tolerance for pain limped out of his bedroom and said, “PT.” I asked, “What does PT mean?” “Poor toes.”

18 months ago it started with a flap of what our doctor called “proud flesh” over his left big toe. “It’s very common in teenage boys when their feet grow quickly. Just soak it, try to push it back so the nail doesn’t dig in,” she said. The problem got worse and spread to his right foot before we realized why it wasn’t healing: Gabriel obsessively picks at his toenails so they never have the chance to grow out, clear of the nail bed, and heal. We had hoped to avoid invasive medical intervention: a procedure normally done in a podiatrist’s office with local anesthetic would, for Gabriel, require general anesthesia and hospitalization. We learned no one in Nanaimo would take it on. A specialist in Victoria is willing to see him. The wait list is eight to ten months long. Assuming he agrees to do the procedure, there will be a further wait for operating room time.

Every night we bandage Gabriel’s toes to cushion them and prevent infection, which has the potential to set in and quickly become blood-borne. That would be bad. It used to be that he’d mention “sore toes” every few days, or after stubbing one of them (a growing teenage boy, he tends to lose track of his body and bumps into things a lot). Now, it’s daily. Every morning he winces when he slides his feet into socks and the legs of his pants. He limps. He asks to go to the hospital. Asks. To. Go. To. The. Hospital. My minimally verbal, autistic son with an unusually high tolerance for pain reaches out, multiple times a day, to tell us that he is suffering. His socks are stained with blood. And I can’t do a damn thing about it.

Oh, Canada. Oh, Universal Health Care. It’s the very foundation of our country. Our taxes and BC Medical Services Plan premiums pay for it. The Vancouver Island Health Authority operates with a budget of $2 billion. And my son bleeds. In pain. And you won’t do a damn thing about it.


  1. Poor Gabriel….I can’t imagine what he’s going through. You are an amazing mom, and he knows you will do whatever it takes to find a way…let me know if a letter somewhere will help!!!

  2. That makes me feel sad. I can’t stand thinking about Gabriel suffering. It’s wrong.

  3. My heart aches for you and Gabriel. If there is anything I can do…. You do know thoughts and prayers of course.

  4. I went thru a similar issue with my exes son who has autism and is also minimally verbal. Hearing him voice the pain he was in, as he also has an extremely high tolerance for pain, just broke my heart. I wrote letters, arranged meetings, contacted our MLA, clogged the ER and eventually ended up at childrens hospital where we finally got help. But it did take time, far too much time and far too much suffering for a child. Just keep pushing and don’t give up.

  5. Gabriel or G as he prefers to be called.. Is a light for Kendall and Myself. The other day, During his bath he was in so much pain.. All I could do was reassure him that yes he had to get in the bath and that it hurts.. He was almost in tears and I had to walk out of the room. That was probably one of the hardest moments I have had to walk through with him.. There has to be help for my main man G! He deserves the best, this is Canada! My opinion on Canadian healthcare as it is Grrreat.. Unless you need a specialist. For G and myself we need specialists in our lives. Vermont where I grew up.. offers the best healthcare for even the poorest of folk (“to those that qualify”).. Come on Canada you don’t wanna be compared to your neighbour to the south?

  6. Alex, don’t give up under ANY circumstances.
    Your son deserves better. If we can afford injection sites, we certainly can afford medical care for Gabe.
    Contact the Premier directly as well as the Minister of Health, VIHA, and your local MLA. Do NOT take NO for an answer.

Submit a comment