From WCVB 5: Boston’s Foot Lady cares for unhoused community with compassion, empathy

Nurse Cecilia Ibeabuchi

Nurse Cecilia Ibeabuchi

Boston’s Foot Lady cares for unhoused community with compassion, empathy

For decades, nurse Cecilia Ibeabuchi has run the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program’s foot care clinic

By Erika Tarantal

BOSTON — Nurse Cecilia Ibeabuchi said she prepares for each visit to her medical clinic the same way, by preparing a warm soapy bath in a foot basin.

“Every single patient that comes to foot care clinic gets a bucket of water made this way,” she said.

Ibeabuchi’s patients are residents of Boston who are unhoused, a community she cares about deeply.

Now 64, Ibeabuchi was 24 years old when she came to the United States from Nigeria and settled in Roxbury. She said she was stunned to see people struggling.

“I said to my husband, ‘You mean that people are homeless in America? That’s unbelievable. Are you sure?’ He said, ‘Yes,’ (and) I knew I had to do something.”

Her effort started with study. Ibeabuchi earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, then nursing and master’s degrees. She first started working at Pine Street Inn.

“That’s when I learned to see that this is a huge problem,” she said. “It’s not a simple, easy problem that one person can solve.”

But Ibeabuchi said she knew one person could make a difference, and her decades of work at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program, BHCHP, is proof that sentiment is true.

BHCHP’s foot care clinic at the St. Francis House was Ibeabuchi’s creation more than 20 years ago. She said for many, walking is their only mode of transportation.

“Some walk half a mile, some two miles, three miles a day…to find food, shelter to find normal basic stuff,” she said.

Ibeabuchi treats a wide variety of ailments, from simple callouses to frostbites, from fungal infections to immersion foot. If left untreated, some of the conditions could lead to serious medical problems.

“Nobody when they were born said, ‘I would like to be homeless,’” she said. “I know I can help a human being, and I know if I treat those feet every day, I can get (them) healed…so nothing stops me from doing it.”

April Ramsey, who heads up clinical operations said Ibeabuchi is a model for how a nurse that is passionate and compassionate can change lives, not just of patients but other medical professionals.

Ramsey said many medical students train in the foot clinic.

“I would love to have a number of the amount of medical professionals that have gotten their start in the foot room,” Ramsey said. “I think it’s just a testament to Cecilia’s unwavering dedication.”

Ibeabuchi said that by offering simple comforts and the highest quality of care, she can build trust and that enables patients to find their footing in many ways.

“When they come in here and feel good about their physical problems, now we can engage them into getting housing…having other connection(s) with their families,” she said. “That’s what we are doing here.”

Watch the video.