An emergency department nurse at a Veterans Affairs hospital gave a man the shoes off his own feet.
Chuck Maulden, 33, was near the end of his shift at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury, North Carolina when a man walked in saying his feet hurt.
“He kept talking about being in bad water in Vietnam,” Maulden told Stars and Stripes. Many soldiers in Vietnam contracted trench foot, a condition caused by being exposed to cold, damp conditions for an extended period.
The man, who Maulden said appeared to be in his mid-60s, took off his ragged shoes and that’s when Maulden saw that the balls of his feet were covered in large blisters. The man’s compression stockings had also matted onto the blisters.
Maulden was instructed to bandage the man’s feet and give him a fresh pair of stockings, and so he did. As he washed the man’s feet and carefully wrapped them with a bandage, Maulden couldn’t help but notice a few things.
“I got the impression that he didn’t always have a roof over his head,” Maulden said. The man told Maulden that his whole family had given up on him except for his nephew, who brought him to the hospital.
According to the VA's director of healthcare for homeless veterans, Jennifer Herb, the hospital served 4,227 homeless veterans in 2014. She said these veterans often have issues with mental health, medical problems and substance addictions.
When Maulden had finished wrapping the man’s feet, he took one look at the man’s old worn-out tennis shoes and decided he had to do something.
“Those shoes were just beat to death,” Maulden said. “I just didn’t feel that I could solve the problem medically and then put those shoes back on him.
“Then it occurred to me that his feet looked about the same size as mine.”
Maulden took off his own pair of size 10 Nike sneakers and put it on the veteran’s foot. “How does that feel?” Maulden asked. “It feels good,” the man responded. “I need to get me some of these.”
Maulden laced the man up, filled out the discharge paperwork and told him he could go. When the veteran reminded him about the Nikes, Maulden have him a hug.
“We talked about the various blessings in life,” said Maulden, who didn’t want to give too many details on the gesture. “It was kind of a private moment, I guess.”
The caring nurse put on a pair of medical shoes and finished his shift.
The heartwarming story would have gone untold had the nephew not called the hospital to thank the staff for taking care of his uncle. The hospital commended Maulden for his generous act and published the story on its newsletter and Facebook page.
“It was easier to do than not to do. I don’t think I could have slept at night if I hadn’t done it,” said Maulden, adding that he never served in the military but enjoys working with those who have. “This is my chance to serve.”