Podiatry students at Southern Cross University come to the rescue of flood victims

Updated July 18 2022 - 11:56am, first published July 13 2022 - 10:50am

Flood victims on the Northern Rivers have literally been helped to get back on their feet by a group of students at Southern Cross University.

Podiatry students from the university have been putting their training into practice.

Flood-affected residents with a variety of foot complaints recently benefited from a six-week pop-up podiatry clinic at Lismore's SCU Health Clinic.

Foot problems were exacerbated in the days and weeks following flood events.

A six-week pop-up podiatry clinic at Lismore's SCU Health Clinic has been helping flood victims with their foot problems.
A six-week pop-up podiatry clinic at Lismore's SCU Health Clinic has been helping flood victims with their foot problems.

For example, walking through mud was unavoidable in the aftermath of the flood, but it can result in painful and infected toenails, made worse by stress and long hours on your feet cleaning up.

"The SCU Health Clinic opened a dedicated podiatry clinic at the University's Lismore campus to help the community get timely, professional advice and treatment, at no cost to local residents," said Podiatry Course Coordinator and registered podiatrist, Dr Alex Barwick.

The student podiatry clinic is normally located at the university's Gold Coast campus.

"However, in watching these devastating floods impact our colleagues, friends and students, we wanted to do our bit at Southern Cross's Lismore campus," Dr Barwick said.

"The last thing anyone needs in these times is a foot problem."

Student practitioners, under the supervision of Dr Barwick, helped people with fungal infections, painful toenails, cracked heels, corns and callus, even performing nail surgery to permanently resolve ingrown toenails.

"The interest in this podiatry clinic has exceeded our expectations, running mostly at full capacity," said Dr Barwick.

"Our students have done a remarkable job helping people both directly and indirectly impacted by the floods with a range of foot conditions. We are all very happy to do our bit for this community."

Wyrallah resident Alicia Smith lost everything when the February 28 flood swept through the family home.

"My mum passed away in the last two years. I'd been staying there with my kids and my partner and my younger brother and uncle. We lost all our stuff, all my mum's stuff as well. It's been full-on," said Alicia.

Alicia received strapping for foot pain and debridement (removal of dead, damaged, or infected tissue to improve the healing potential of the remaining healthy tissue) to treat a corn.

"You just sort of live with the pain and discomfort unless you come to a place like this. And with kids, you sort of ignore your own stuff to look after them plus sorting out your house that's been flooded," she said.

"It's been great to come to the clinic and get that treated. Once that happened there was a lot of relief."

Final year podiatry student Kasandra Child experienced first hand the full force of the flood event and jumped at the opportunity to help.

"I was impacted by floods in Casino. It was traumatic," said Kasandra, who travels to the Gold Coast campus to study podiatry.

"I'm a Rural Fire Service volunteer as well, and I was out helping with the clean-up in Casino, Woodburn and Coraki. I knew what conditions the residents were walking in, so as soon as I heard about the pop-up podiatry clinic, I was like 'I want to be there to help them out'.

Kasandra treated ingrown toenails, skin issues and diabetes cases.

"Our podiatry experience has grown after practising at the Lismore clinic. The patients are so different to the Gold Coast where we mostly treat bio-mechanical complaints," she said.

"We had a few farmers here, too. They're so busy, they just push through the pain and discomfort. I don't know how they put up with it."

Kasandra said it was a valuable experience, professionally and personally.

"Professionally I got a lot out of it but also felt like I contributed a lot, too. We became like a shoulder to lean on. They shared how they'd been going, the issues they confronted along the way. I could help them because I'd been in the same situation. So we could bounce ideas off each other and be positive together trying to move through this traumatic event."