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What kind of doctor operates on himself? A badass

Dr. Thomas Jiunta wasn’t going to take any chances and let someone else cut his foot.

A PENNSYLVANIA podiatrist last week came up with a novel way to save on health-care costs. He operated on himself.

Actually, he didn't do it to save money, but Dr. Thomas Jiunta told me that he really didn't trust anyone else to do it as well as he could.

The 45-minute self-surgery took place in Jiunta's office last week in Kingston, Luzerne County, under local anesthesia.

If the Republicans have their way with repealing Obamacare, more folks just might find themselves following Jiunta's lead. But don't try this at home, folks.

Kidding aside, to do something like that, you'd have to be crazy or a badass. Jiunta, I suspect, falls in the latter category.

For two years, Jiunta had been suffering from a painful neuroma, commonly referred to as a pinched nerve. He had tried a variety of treatments, but nothing helped.

"I wanted to try something different," Jiunta, 60, told me hours after his surgery. "I had the same thing done on my opposite foot last year by another doctor and I wasn't totally happy with the way it went, so I thought I would do this one myself."

Hey, I don't usually write about stuff like this, but I was intrigued.

"Some people would think it would be stupid, but I had to think who I trust the most with my foot," Jiunta said. "To be honest with you, I trust myself better than any other foot person. So, how could I go wrong?"

Yeah, well, plenty could go wrong, which is why Jiunta wisely had a colleague standing by as he made a 2-inch incision between his third and fourth metatarsal bones. He also had one of his employees available to assist. His office-manager wife, who disagreed with Jiunta's plan, chose to be absent.

I know why she didn't want any part of her husband's surgery. It's a rare physician who'll pick up a scalpel and start slicing away on his own body.

You hear about it from time to time, such as in 1999 when the late Dr. Jerri Nielsen discovered a lump in her breast while at a South Pole research station. An emergency-room doctor, she performed her own breast biopsies - sticking herself 20 times to extract enough tissue to examine, according to the Washington Post. Nielsen later self-administered the intravenous chemotherapy that was air-dropped in.

Nielsen, who died in 2009, was another badass. You'd have to be, to pick up a surgical instrument and use it on your own body.

But is it wise?

Dr. Maasi Smith, a Philadelphia-based podiatrist, chuckled when I asked him about what Jiunta had done. "That's highly unusual," Smith told me. "I don't know anybody who would have the nerve to do that.

"I had a cyst on my leg once and I had one of my podiatrist friends handle it. I barely could handle that," he added. "Good for him that he had that type of willpower."

Jiunta prepped for weeks, even doing yoga to make sure his leg was flexible enough to keep his foot positioned correctly while he worked on it. To Jiunta, a 40-year meditation practitioner and instructor, the surgery was a challenge.

"I try to teach that by controlling our ability to focus our minds we can think clearly and do what needs to be done without getting anxious, excited or allowing unnecessary distractions to cloud our actions or thoughts," he wrote in an email.

Yeah, well.

The operating-room images he captured with a camera attached to his head are difficult to look at.

The way I see it, what he did gives new meaning to the phrase "mind over matter."

"People tried to discourage me not to do it. And so it's kind of hard to stay confident when you have, you know, people telling you you're crazy and all of that stuff," Jiunta said. "You can't have any doubts. I numbed myself up. I gave myself the local and it was, just, go."

Like I said, he's a badass.