Episode 12: Sue Kent

Gears, Gadgets and Gizmos
Dr Phil Friend
7 Oct 2020

Sue Kent is a massage therapist who uses her feet to massage. She pioneered this technique due to an upper limb disability caused by the drug thalidomide. 

Listen to Sue's Gears, Gadgets and Gizmos

She has 8-inch-long arms and seven fingers and no thumbs. She has a little strength or grip ability in her hands. Sue uses both her feet and her arms to do daily tasks, and she sometimes uses her teeth although she isn't sure this is always a good idea.

Sue’s favourite pastimes include sea swimming, gardening and painting, all of which she does using a combination of her feet and hands.

Sue runs a Facebook page called Gadgets to make life easier, disabling disability. Here people can share gadgets they found that are useful or ask if anybody has a gadget for a problem that they have. Click here to find our more.  

Sue mentioned the following products/items in the podcast

Transcript of the podcast

Phil Friend : 0:13

Hello, everyone, Phil friend here, and welcome to gear gadgets and gizmos. The show where I interview disabled people about the things they use every day to overcome the challenges that they face. I hope you enjoy the show Well, today I'm delighted to welcome onto the show. Sue Kent, who came to me via our old chum, Geoff Adams. Spink who , um , know Sue quite well, I think. And they've had sort of worked together in the past. So Sue, how are you?

Sue Kent: 0:46

I'm fine. Thank you. I'm enjoying the weather

Phil Friend : 0:48

Yes. And we're both of course recording this while everything's locked down. We're not allowed out are we and stuff?

Sue Kent: 0:55

No . And I got to play I'm covered in paint because I've been painting.

Phil Friend : 0:58

Whereabouts do you live then? So where are you based?

Sue Kent: 1:01

So I'm near Swansea in South Wales. And , um , but when they're lucky lock down ones, because my local walk is on the beach.

Phil Friend : 1:08

Right. And, and what sort of accommodation do you have?

Sue Kent: 1:14

So I've got quite a large five bedroom house and yeah, and about three quarters of an acre of garden and I g rew a lot of vegetables. U m, so I'm busy like growing for Britain, in case Ttis all goes on a bit longer.

Phil Friend : 1:28

Right ? Right. And , and do you work, what kind of work do you do when you're working?

Sue Kent: 1:35

I have an unusual job, which I came to about 14 years ago now. So I am a professional massage therapist, but because of my disability, I use my feet to massage and I've got a little clinic based in Mumbles my disability is I' m v ery like Geoff, Ad am S p inks, hi s t win. So we've got matching arms On my hands. I've got seven fingers, four on one and three on the other, um , I'm a fit person and I'm, um , I' m quite inte rested in f it ness and health and nutrition and all that sort of thing. So, um , I, I tend to pummel people with my feet , sp orts people or just the general public like massage

Phil Friend : 2:14

And they, and they come along and pay you for this pain. Do they?

Sue Kent: 2:18

They , they do what I, I am, I can cause pain because feet are very much stronger than hands, but you know , I do do it relaxing , um, or you know, sports. So , um, uh, you know, they have an option to be tortured or to be tenderly loved,

Phil Friend : 2:37

But unusually with your feet

Sue Kent: 2:39

With my feet. And I didn't, I didn't use my feet until about 14 years ago and I didn't know I could do this and then gradually upskilled . And it's second nature to me now .

Phil Friend : 2:49

Fantastic. Now obviously with, with that impairment, that's going to present you with a number of challenges. I mean, not the least of which are massaging people and stuff, but the everyday life things, you know, cooking, cleaning, I dunno, getting dressed, all those sorts of things. So as you know, the show's really about , um, how people go about solving these problems using stuff. So what's the number one, we got three, three things to talk about. What's the first one that comes out of your hat, so to speak.

Sue Kent: 3:18

So the first thing that I would pack in my suitcase, if I went to visit anybody, I think I went on holiday self catering is what I call a rocker chopper , which I find it really difficult. Haven't got much strength in my arms and I really like to cook. And I , you know , I very much was a role of a house. I've my husband goes to work and I brought up two kids. And in order to be able to put food on the table , um, I needed to chop vegetables. So my mum found me one of these years ago and it means that I can hold my, you know, my arms don't go very far apart because they're only eight inches and I can hold this , um , to handle chopper, push lean forward and , and puts the handles into my shoulders and push down or use my chin on one of them and guide it with the other hand. And I can chop vegetables, not really Jamie Oliver neatly, but you know, to an extent that, you know, that that is passable. Um, so I , I, I use this chopper for everything instead of, you know, knives really, I wouldn't be able to manage in the kitchen without it. They do small ones, the big ones I need the big one. Um, and uh, at one stage they were very difficult to come by. They didn't just stock them in Swansea. Um , whenever my husband, I go to these very expensive kitchen shops look about and try and get a new one. And so that will be my, my number generally use them for shopping parsley, but I use them for chopping everything .

Phil Friend : 4:48

And it's obviously safe. This is something that allows you to do this very safely. Oh! dear your laughing,

Sue Kent: 4:55

I not really into health and safety. Um, it is because I can guide it. It's probably because I can use my chin and I is. I try and keep my fingers away from the area I have been known to just miss a bit, but I would say it's really generally quite safe.

Phil Friend : 5:12

Okay. And that's portable. So you, as you say, you could put it in your suitcase and take it wherever you go.

Sue Kent: 5:18

Yeah. People often find it in the side of my car. Cause you know, if you go and visit people though , you know, and you know, you need to show willing. Um, yeah. So if we go on holiday, we usually go to self catering and my husband, you know, by the time he's very slow at his knife work and I'm actually quicker at chopping than he is to say, and it's supposed to be both o ur holidays. So although I can't manage a l ots of kitchens in self-catering at least I can do a b it of chopping.

Phil Friend : 5:44

Yes, no, that sounds great. And we will include in the notes of the show, the, a picture or something of that sort and where people might get one. So that's the first thing. Now what's the second list item.

Sue Kent: 5:58

So the second thing is , um, as a lady, you know, we have various beauty requirements. So when I was younger , um, uh , eyebrow plucking is, is, is a , you know , thing that young ladies do what most of them and I found tweezers really difficult c ause they need a pinching movement. And if y ou a re a thalidomide person, you don't have thumbs. So you've got no ability to s queeze. U m, anything. U m, so eventually my friend, I think found me a pair of scissors i n a shopping in the Scilly Isles, I think, or i n, u m, and in, in a back of, beyond the chemist and they were little scissor t weezers, and I had these for nearly 40 years, well, nearly 50 years and they were marvelous. It meant I could pluck i t anything. And they gradually got rusty and they gradually got loose. So, and all that sort of thing, but they still, y ou k now, worked. And uh, then one day they disappeared. And um, so because of my job, I scoured the internet, I've scoured everything. Um, but because of my job, we have a wholesaler beauticians, cause I'm a massage therapist, but you get all your stuff from the wholesaler . And I went there and I found a very, very strange pair of tweezers, which is a squeezy motion in a pinchy motion. And so I now have, I can now redo my eyebrows and various other hairs. U m, so I'm very pleased. This is, this is like my super duper o ne comes everywhere with me because hair sprouts, y ou k now, women are vainer than men and they need these, u h, hair, u m, y ou k now, removing tools. So this is like a scissor type of movement as opposed to a t weezer type of movement. And you don't need thumbs.

Phil Friend : 7:49

And is it possible to get this from anywhere now or or is it really quite specialist?

Sue Kent: 7:57

Um, well I can't get the old one. If I can get the old one, it would be lovely because it was easier than this one, but no, they, they, they, they must have, they , um, I'll put a picture up of them. They, I mean, I bought , I bought this about a year ago, so from, I've never seen them in chemists , but you know, if you've got a friend who is a beautician, she could , she can go into the wholesalers and see what it's called , but yeah.

Phil Friend : 8:22

Men could buy it. Couldn't they, if the men are wanting to do their eyebrows,

Sue Kent: 8:26

Yeah. If men want to do their ey ebrows. I think it'd be a bit painful to do mustaches and beards, but you never know what

Phil Friend : 8:33

I've got a moustache but I'm not gonna try suppose if I came and saw you could do it with your feet, could you, could you

Sue Kent: 8:38

Aye. Aye, aye. I could probably pluck with my feet, but the trouble is my, eyesight's not that good. I'd have to use magnifying glasses I have a mirror, o ne o f m y o ther g adgets, that magnifies 10 times right so I can actually see where I'm going.

Phil Friend : 8:54

And what about, I mean, As a general point about makeup and things like that, do you wear much of that? And if you do, how do you apply it?

Sue Kent: 8:55

Well, my hands are very near my face, it's quite easy to slap it on there, but holding my hand doesn't actually hold itself up against, I can't lift my arm up to my face. So I have to prop my arm usually against a mirror, which means I'm even near into it. So it distorts what you'll see and you can be too close. So putting, I usually need a wall to put my arm up and then a mirror sort of placed in front of the wall a bit further away. So it's not easy. It's a sort of strategic thing that I can only really do at home. And as a consequence I wear less and less makeup. And as I get older and my eyesight gets worse, I look less wrinkly and I look less look fantastic. As far as I can see I can't see my wrinkles. I can't see the paint on my chin that , you know, obviously blue. (It's a very nice shade of blue me tell you ). Yeah. So I guess she didn't care anymore, but, but lipstick, I can still, I'm still pretty good at lipstick. I can get that . Right.

Phil Friend : 9:59

It's an interesting issue. Isn't it? Because clearly there are all sorts of activities that people do routinely. You know what I mean ? Thinking about, but suddenly the idea of makeup, an eyebrow plucking and things like that. If you've got that kind of your kind of impairment that makes life quite interesting. What's the third thing that you're going to pack or take or,

Sue Kent: 10:19

So the thing I came across about 10 years before I started massaging, really, and I do like gardening with my feet. Um, and I sometimes, you know, in the winter, so that's something I need my feet to do things right. If I get in a car, I take the, if I'm at the petrol station to take the cap off the car, I need to get my feet out to use them. But in the winter, they're in socks and therefore I can't split my big toe between the rest of them, which I use to grip. And therefore the socks make life really restricting in the winter cause I can slip them in and out of my boots. But then I'd have to take my sock off in the cold. But I discovered Japanese Tapio socks , which has split toe . Now they know the five separate toes because that makes your foot too bulky in the shoe. They are just one big toe separated from the rest. If I'm wearing flip flops, the Chinese wear them and the Japanese wear them in flip flops. So I found these and I've found that I could do lots of jobs while keeping my feet warm. I know also in with gardening, sometimes I want to do really dirty jobs and they just slightly protect your feet for , gardening you can't buy rubber, rubber gloves for feet with , with a split toe. You can get some kinky ones with like the rubber that comes up your legs, but they're like so much money and it not really what you want. So I did, I did actually speak to the manufacturers and try and get some rubberized feet, but it wasn't, somebody did try some glove maker tried, but it wasn't quite right. Um, so these, I use them and I actually use so many that I import myself from China. Um, cause I use them at work as well as keeping my feet warm before and start working. they wear out a lot. Um, so yes, split toe socks is my, my , um , not not a sexy look , but really practical, nice thing. And a lot of people sort of see them and want them who haven't got a disability. Um, but yes, they enable me to do things, work, keep it like gloves for the norms. Um, so they enable me to do stuff in the winter without freezing.

Phil Friend : 12:34

And what sort of price are we talking about for something like that

Sue Kent: 12:36

Well, and she can share for ones you can, I'm importing them and they cost me a quid each. But if you buy them on eBay, there anything I've made them available at a quid each, but a lot of it is makers. U m, but if you buy them on eBay, i t can be anything from at t wo pounds fifty up t o sort of 10 pounds, you know, you can get re ally n ice designer ones with nice patterns on. Um , s o there a r e all sorts of, you k now, different ones and you don't really want th em t o thick when you're doing, yo u're u sing your feet. So you want the cheap thin ones, but they do wear out and you think they need replacing.

Phil Friend : 13:14

Yes. Well that's, I mean, that's really interesting. So none of the things that you've discussed seem to me to be out of most people's price range. They're not expensive items, are they?

Sue Kent: 13:26

No, they're not expensive. And um , no the chopper. I was looking today at the shop where you can get them, you can get the whole like metal ones are made completely of metal for about 12 pounds on Amazon. But then if you want to buy the one that I've got with the wooden handles, they sit cold , a Mesa , I think make them their mine's Italian. We have to buy the chopping , board which is a bit of a shame because you just want the chopper . So you need to look around and they're at 25 pounds the tweezers. I think we're about maybe 12 pounds. And as I said, the T A B I O s ocks, u h, y ou k now, vary from and you can b uy job lots on eBay. So you can buy a pack of three for six quid , things like that. So it's, it's not too bad. The most expensive thing I get , which is an extra gadget was a dressing stick . That costs about 200 pounds, which is retractable stainless steel, which enables me to pull my knickers up and down like trousers up and down . And some people who are clever that I can do the buttons up and down. And that cost a fortune. And I used to take that everywhere. I try and I try and manage it , put my clothes. So I don't need gadgets, but sometimes my back gets stiff and I do need this one. And anyway, I ended up camping and not having my stick and I really needed it. My back seized up because beds when camping aren't very nice and I went to the local hardware store. Um, my husband got a piece of Dowling and we got some four or five cup hooks and he cut the dowling into about six bits made me six, dressing sticks with a cup hood qat the end for about four quid. Um, so , um , it's amazing what you can do when you need to say , yeah, you can get very expensive gadgets and then you can get, you can, you know , you can make do and mend.

Phil Friend : 15:16

Well, I , I, I think that's really good and I'm thinking you're very clever that you slipped in a fourth without me realizing you did it. Well look. Sue obviously we'll, we'll post the information o n, on the website for people to take a look or to find the gadgets you've talked about. But all that remains for me to do is to say I'm a big, thank you for coming on and sharing your stuff with us, u h, including your blue chin, lovely, which the listeners won't ever be able to see, but I have, but thank you so much. It's been really, really lovely to meet you and also to hear about the things you're using. So

Sue Kent: 15:55

Thank you for inviting me , I love the show. I'm picking up all sorts of useful information and it's a great idea.

Phil Friend : 16:03

Thank you very much. Okay. Take good care of yourself. Thanks for listening everyone. And if you'd like to be on the show, please drop me a line at brinkburn@gmail .com. Thanks once again.