A DEDICATED lifeboat man is featuring in a national campaign for foot and leg health after a special pair of wellies helped save his foot from amputation.

Whitby RNLI crewman Keith Attridge, a 51-year-old plumber who lives in the town, first noticed what he thought was a blister on his big toe in April 2020.

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It was actually a foot ulcer, probably caused by a small cut and made worse by nerve damage - a side-effect of his type 2 diabetes.

By the time Keith was referred to a podiatrist, the ulcer was so bad that it had caused a serious infection of the bone and could have resulted in him losing part of his foot.

Thankfully with treatment - including a special set of insoles created for his lifeboat wellies - Keith made a full recovery.

He is now sharing his story as part of the Legs Matter campaign to highlight the importance of leg and foot health.

He said: “At one point, the podiatrist did talk about amputation.

“That probably would have put an end to the RNLI work because you need to be able to move around easily and that’s hard when you’re missing a big toe.”

Keith changed his diet and spent several months in the care of the NHS podiatry team at The Whitby Hospital in Springhill, who provided specialist care of his ulcer, including dressing his foot and making the insoles for his wellies.

Keith said: “My podiatrist, Gill Sykes, asked me to bring in the shoes that I wore most often, which included my wellies for when I’m on the lifeboat.

The Northern Echo:

Whitby RNLI crewman Keith Attridge with podiatrist Gill Sykes

"The insoles really help take the pressure off my big toe, which has now fully healed.”

Gill said: “It’s fortunate that Keith sought help when he did.

"With diabetes, he quickly could have lost part of his foot, and even worse, if the infection had spread.”

This week Keith is supporting the Legs Matter Campaign - urging others to take positive action and to make a change for better leg and foot health.

Keith is one of an estimated 1.8 million people a year in the UK who experience a life-threatening or serious problem with their legs and feet, often caused by an underlying issue with circulation or as a result of nerve damage.

He said: “I took myself to A&E because I knew my toe wasn’t right.

"They dressed my foot and gave me antibiotics to clear up the infection.

"This helped for a bit but as soon as I stopped the antibiotics, this blister would come back.

"This went on for months until I was referred to the podiatry team. They’ve just been brilliant.”

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Keith’s advice to people with a foot wound that’s not healing is similarly no-nonsense: “Don’t just ignore it," he says.

"I should have seen someone much quicker. My foot was in a real mess by the time I sought help.”

Gill is part of the UK’s Legs Matter Campaign and said: “We want more people to realise that they have the power to stop their leg or foot problem escalating and becoming more serious.

"We need every patient to take positive action, seek face-to-face medical help faster and to make lifestyle changes.

"If anyone is worried about their legs or feet, they should contact their GP, who would prefer to see them sooner rather than later, and they can also access specialist information on our website.”

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