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Odd shoes: Jo O'Callaghan sets up Facebook group to match people up with single shoes

By Rachael Woods

Jo O’Callaghan suffers from crippling pain down the right side of body forcing her to hobble on crutches or use a wheelchair to get about.

The pain is centred on her leg and foot and is so debilitating that she is contemplating having the limb amputated.

But the enterprising mum who lives in Colonel Stephens Avenue, Tenterden, who has complex regional pain syndrome, has found solace in an unlikely place – a shoe-swapping community.

Jo O'Callaghan who has a chronic medical condition has now set up an odd shoe swapping group
Jo O'Callaghan who has a chronic medical condition has now set up an odd shoe swapping group

The 44-year-old started a Facebook group that links people, many with chronic conditions, who only have need for one shoe and find themselves with stash of surplus footwear because of it.

Jo, who was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome seven years ago – but whose symptoms stretch back over 17 years, said: “I found myself with lots of right shoes at the bottom of my wardrobe and thought that other people might have a use for them.

She set up Jo’s Odd Shoes just nine months ago and it now has 225 members from different corners of the country.

“We’ve got members in places like Glasgow, Bristol and Plymouth,” said Jo.

“Some are amputees, or have arthritis, or have got problems with their feet because of diabetes, but it all means they often have need for only one shoe.”

The members swap their unwanted shoe with others who are in need of the opposite number.

“My skin is so sensitive on my right foot that water on it, or someone brushing against it, causes pain" - Jo O'Callaghan

Friendships have developed among the shoe-swapping fraternity and for former accounts worker Jo, whose pain means that she takes three types of morphine on a daily basis, it has become a welcome distraction.

Jo has also developed allodynia causing extreme sensitivity in her right foot: “My skin is so sensitive on my right foot that water on it, or someone brushing against it, causes pain.”

The mum of two teenage boys, who is married to IT manager Nick, cannot wear a sock or shoe on her right foot and is forced to sleep on top of the bedcovers at night with her foot resting on a cushion, as contact with bedlinen is agonising.

Jo, whose condition is managed by doctors at University College, London, had an operation to insert a spinal cord stimulator into her back, together with a battery implant, with the aim of improving way her nerve signals work, but it has proved ineffective.

“My aim is to get my right leg amputated,” said Jo, who is due to spend a week in a specialist hospital in Bath in an attempt to improve her condition.

Amputations have resulted in sufferers being freed from a life of chronic pain and although the operation is no guarantee of a cure, for Jo her daily life of pain means it’s a gamble worth taking.

(BLOB) For more information visit Jo’s Odd Shoes (@odd_shoes) | Twitter

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