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John's Foot Care Story

by UPMC

The complications involved with diabetes can be wide-ranging and debilitating. There’s increased risk for heart disease, bone and joint disorders, stroke, high blood pressure, skin conditions, and teeth and gum problems. Although those are some of the more common concerns, there are others that can be just as devastating.

Just ask John Shafer of Montgomery.

John, senior director of field operations North America for Stanley Access Technologies, learned firsthand how dangerous a simple cut to the foot can be for someone with diabetes. Unfortunately, that’s a lesson he had to learn twice.

The reason foot abrasions have a tendency to become infected in someone who has diabetes is two-fold. First, they can be difficult to identify, because a blood sugar imbalance can cause pain or tingling in the foot — a condition known as neuropathy — someone with diabetes may not even notice when he or she has injured a foot. In addition, diabetes restricts blood flow, so a cut on the foot may be slow to heal because an adequate amount of blood isn’t reaching the injured area.

The result can be an unnoticed, open wound that lingers to the point of infection.

After cutting his toe in 2013, John eventually found himself in the emergency department at UPMC Williamsport, where Zachary Ritter, DPM, immediately recognized the seriousness of the situation and operated on John’s foot to remove the infection.

After a recovery that included a seven-day hospital stay, things returned to normal for John. Not one to sit still, he fanatically cheered for his beloved Penn State Nittany Lions. He attended celebrity chef nights at the Peter Herdic House in Williamsport. He participated in his church’s choir, hosted dinner parties at his home, played volleyball, and indulged in his love of traveling.

Then, just before Christmas 2019, he suffered another foot wound.

This time the cut was on his other foot, but the infection was the same. John found himself back at UPMC Williamsport for a second surgery with Dr. Ritter. Afterward, he left with more than just a mended foot. He also had a heart full of gratitude.

Following that visit, John was so moved by his experience that he wrote a letter of appreciation thanking the UPMC doctors, nurses, and support staff who cared for him during his visits. John also donated $10,000 to the Susquehanna Health Foundation in honor of Dr. Ritter — a donation his employer generously matched — for a total contribution of $20,000.

John credits Dr. Ritter for more than just his surgical prowess and says the warm reception he received changed his entire outlook on health care.

“Honesty, I never really liked doctors and never liked going to the doctor,” John says. “And while Dr. Ritter is serious and an expert in his field, he also has a personality and humor that are so special and make it easy to have a great doctor/patient relationship. A lot of people are afraid to go to the doctor, but his demeanor makes it easier to not be nervous or upset.”

An alumnus of Mansfield University, John has been involved with fundraising efforts through his alma mater and understands the importance of philanthropy. He says that being on this side of the giving — after all the pain, anxiety, fears, “what ifs,” two surgeries, and 10 days in the hospital — feels better than he ever could have imagined.

John has been at Stanley Access, a division of Stanley Black & Decker, for 33 years. He loves his job, even going so far as to say he’s married to his career, and he appreciates the perks that an accomplished professional with a successful career that spans three decades might enjoy.

One of those benefits is the flexibility to live essentially wherever he wants, but the lifelong Pennsylvania resident, who was born in South Williamsport, says he wouldn’t think of living anywhere other than the Susquehanna region.

John says he knew that his donation to Susquehanna Health Foundation would benefit others in the area he calls home, helping to enhance local care that consistently ranks among the state’s finest. He cites UPMC’s service, facilities, and patient outcomes as examples of how the health system shines in the Susquehanna region.

“This area’s level of health care is great,” John says. “We’re fortunate to have it.”