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AUDIO: Masseuse, Sue Kent

by Ouch Team

20th January 2009

Sue Kent is no ordinary masseuse. a thalidomider, she has honed the art of 'massage by feet'. On the January 2009 Ouch Podcast, Sue gives a member of the team a massage live in studio. While she works, Sue describes to Mat and Liz how she keeps her feet in such good condition and gives a run-down of some of the other amazing things she can do with her toes.

The whole thing is completely fascinating. Check out the full interview!
Sue Kent demonstrates her technique whilst Liz Carr asks the questions

[+] Read transcript

Liz: After all the parties, family arguments and stressful travels surrounding Christmas your muscles are probably trying out for a relaxing massage. But how would you feel if the masseuse used her feet rather than her hands.
Mat: Sue Kent, a fellow thalidomider, yes, has invented and honed the art of massage by feet making it her career and even bringing out a DVD on the subject. She's here in the studio to tell us all about it and to demonstrate on one lucky fella. Sue, you're very welcome to the podcast.
Sue: Hello, Mat and Liz, thank you for having me.
Liz: Hello welcome. Now Gideon's poor CP spasm riddled muscles could always do with a good massage, and Rob Crossan well he's been partying hard over the holidays and badly needs a therapeutic rub down. Not fair to choose one so, Sue, we were wondering would you toss a coin for us?
Sue: I will toss a coin.
Liz: With your feet of course.
Sue: With my feet.
Liz: To decide who's to get this massage. Okay, who's got a coin?
Gideon: I've got... what sort of coin would you like?
Sue: I'd like oh well a big one.
Liz: A big coin.
Gideon: A 50?
Sue: Oh a 50 would be lovely.
Liz: Over we come.
Mat: Where's he going to put it oh look.
Sue: Where shall I take it from you?
Mat: Oh she's cleverly taking the coin with her feet.
Gideon: Right, how're we going to call this, will you call? Okay tails never fails.
Mat: So Gideon wants tails. Okay here we go.
Liz: She's throwing...
Mat: It's dropped.
Liz: On the floor.
Mat: And what it is Liz?
Liz: Oh it's tails.
Mat: So Gideon.
Liz: There's a little confusion which is tails. Let me have a look, let me have a look Gideon.
Mat: It's one of those new 50p with no bloody tails on it.
Liz: No yeah because heads is the other side so it must be.
Liz: By cunning process of elimination.
Mat: Rob, not this time my friend, I'm sorry.
Liz: Sorry!
Sue: Oh Rob I'm sorry.
Liz: Boo hoo! Home for you.
ROB Home for me.
Liz: See you next month. Right, Gideon you'd better get in position.
Gideon: All right.
Mat: Get on the floor Gideon. I'm sensing Gideon's a little nervous.
Liz: I'm sensing this too.
Sue: Shirt off then Gideon I can't do it with your clothes on.
Gideon: Okay.
Liz: Oh my goodness.
Mat: Gideon is now ...
Gideon: Am I lying down?
Mat: ... taking his shirt off.
Sue: Yes you're getting your legs under here.
Liz: It's a striped shirt probably one he got from Christmas I would think maybe.
Mat: He's rather well developed isn't he?
Liz: He is.
Mat: Mind you have you ever met one of them who isn't? It's all that wriggling isn't it?
Gideon: All right.
Sue: Okay. So you just stretch your legs out.
Gideon: Okay.
Sue: Are you comfortable on your chest? You don't have any breathing problems or anything?
Gideon: No I'm fine I do lots of exercises like this.
Liz: Shirt off.
Mat: I bet you do. Sue is now putting the chair over his bum. There it is it's down now over his bum. Now she's sitting in position. Oh there's some oil...
Sue: I have to say Gideon my feet will be a bit cold because...
Gideon: Okay I've felt that already.
Sue: ... because this is a bit of a cheapskate studio and there's no nice warm radiators for me.
Liz: So she's straddling Gideon's back.
Sue: I'm straddling Gideon and I've not got a plate so I'm just going to pour the oil on you. We're just oil you up.
Liz: You're like the Christmas turkey being basted, Gideon. That's what it reminds me of.
Mat: Oh no look she's going up the centre spreading out through the shoulders.
Liz: What are you actually doing to him Sue?
Sue: At the moment I'm warming him up because you have to warm up the muscles this is called effleurage. So I'm just gently trying to get him to relax. He doesn't look very relaxed at the moment. Are you relaxed, Gideon?
Gideon: Trying my best
Sue: Breathe deeply.
Mat: In through the nose out through the mouth, Gid.
Sue: So at the moment I'm just being very gentle, you have to be careful with Cerebral Palsy because the muscles are so tense that you can make them worse if you sort of go in there too heavy. So you have to make sure you relax him.
Liz: So you're feet are going... now I am a bit taken by this, your feet look fantastic.
Mat: Don't they look great?
Liz: How do you get them into shape for massage?
Sue: Well it took me about a year to get them to this stage. My husband's extremely critical and hates feet, and he sent me off for pedicures and treatments and I ordered some... I got in contact with somebody who manufactured gloves and I asked them to make me some plastic rubber feet, so they made me some. So I could do all my other jobs with gloves on to protect my feet. So now they're at a stage where they're very soft and gentle.
Liz: And are they insured?
Sue: They're not insured.
Mat: Are you the thalidomide Betty Grable? Betty Grable famously, ladies and gentlemen, insured her legs for one million pounds.
Sue: If I become that good at it and it's providing that much income then I might insure them.
Liz: Your livelihood.
Sue: How are feeling Gideon?
Gideon: All right.
Sue: What I'm going to do now is I'm going to use my big toes up each side of your spine so I can feel each, you know, the vertebrae to see if there's any tension in his spine. Because this is a demonstration and I don't know Gideon's body very well I'm just going to sort of show you what I do because I don't want to cause him any problems and have him slag me afterwards.
Liz: Are you doing all right down there, Gideon, how does it feel?
Gideon: Yeah I'm feeling the kind of pressure in the middle.
Liz: And have you ever had a massage before Gideon?
Gideon: No nothing like this, no.
Liz: So you've got nothing to compare it to?
Gideon: No, nothing like this…
Mat: Oh look at the way she's using... rocking her heels, ladies and gentlemen.
Sue: Now this is very popular with all my clients, a rocking... the force on the heel you can't really get from any other part of the hand so they really enjoy when I use my heels on their muscles. You can only use it in certain parts and you should only use this back and forward motion until the skin reddens and then you should…
Liz: Sue there was a story in the press about this Jessica Cox and she has no arms and she flew a plane with her feet recently and we read about her. So as a thalidomider do you do a lot of other day to day stuff with your feet, with your toes?
Sue: Yes. I mean I run the house, I put the washing in and out - sort the washing with my feet, I clean the bath and everything like people do with their hands. And I get dressed with my feet put a bra on, wash my hair and…
Mat: Let's just take a pause there. You put your bra on with your feet?
Sue: Yeah I put...
Liz: I knew that would get your attention. Yes.
Mat: Well I'm sorry but is anybody else trying to visualise that?
Sue: Would you like a demonstration?
Mat: Now what do you reckon is the most impressive thing that you can do with your toes Sue? Jessica claims that she can put her contact lenses in with her feet.
Sue: Well she does doesn't she? I suppose... what I used to find very useful was smoking a fag with my feet but I don't smoke anymore. Because when you smoke it with 8" hands all the smoke will go in your eyes and you cough and splutter. And so holding it between your toes meant that you could keep it well away from you. Brushing my hair I suppose is... because I can get right to the back of my head with my feet.
Liz: Mat, do you use your feet for a lot of things?
Mat: If I'm picking stuff up from the floor rather than bend all the way down to the floor, I like to meet my foot half way, if you see what I mean?
Liz: But you're not a big foot user?
Mat: I'm not, well I'm not because I've got the slightly longer model of arms haven't I Sue?
Sue: Yes he's not quite so trendy.
Liz: Okay.
Mat: You've got the more flipper style.
Sue: He's not really, really well thalidomide he's, you know, playing. And he's a bit of a snob I think about that, I think he likes to use his hands.
Liz: I did wonder.
Sue: Some thalidomides are a bit snobby and they think using your feet's a bit naff, but we all know the ones who do it it's uber cool.
Liz: There's a lot of pictures of what you do online and you now have a demonstration DVD, do you find that you get a lot of emails from people who like feet maybe a bit too much?
Sue: Well yeah, I mean, I don't see how you can like feet a bit too much, or any part of the body a bit too much, it just depends where your personal preference is.
Sue: Are you all right, Gideon?
Gideon: Yeah good thanks.
Liz: He's quietened down.
Mat: He's gone very quiet.
Sue: Am I making you worse because... is it...
Mat: You seem more spasticated now.
Sue: I could do it you see because I don't know his body. Are you okay?
Gideon: I'm feeling all right.
Sue: You're feeling okay.
Liz: Are you relaxing Gideon?
Gideon: I'm getting there yeah.
Sue: If he was my client I'd then move over here and I'd go from the side but I don't think he wants that.
Liz: So you'd move over to the right...
Sue: I'd move over to the right.
Liz: ... and move onto the side.
Sue: And then my feet would act as what you should do is a sort of leaning movement here.
Liz: Okay.
Sue: But we'll do...
Liz: You do a sideways movement.
Mat: Do you do buttocks Sue?
Sue: I'm exceptionally good at buttocks actually.
Mat: You hear that Gideon?
Sue: I am…
Liz: Look of fear on Gideon's face.
Sue: Have you got a...
Mat: And a yelp.
Sue: Have you got....
Mat: Let's go buttock.
Sue: ... problems with your buttocks Gideon?
Mat: Are they a little tense?
Gideon: They're not bad to be honest.
Mat: Tense buttocks.
Sue: And if I'm, you know, with clients that I know and I know they can take it I do quite a lot of standing and I get my feet right under here.
Mat: She's not at the buttocks now, ladies and gentlemen.
Sue: Is that nice for you Gideon?
Gideon: It's quite sharp
Liz: How did you get started then in massage?
Sue: My son started me off. He sailed for, he was young, he sailed for the Welsh team, and he was a bit too young really and it hurt his back because he was lifting heavy boats. So he used to... he wouldn't get up in the morning until I stood on him and walked on his back. And then I just developed it from the back walking and then people... I started doing my friends who were a bit stuck and they'd done some things and then I continued it really. Because I've got such strength in my legs and my body weight but like for men who want a really firm massage or like the buttock muscles, gluteal muscles, they really require quite a lot of work and they can tire a lot of massage...
Mat: They need a good pounding sometimes don't they?
Sue: So with me it's, you know, it doesn't take too much effort for me to really get in those muscles and sort them out.
Mat: I actually know that you're a self confessed podcast fan.
Sue: Oh I'm a huge fan.
Mat: And you believe it's changed your life. Would you indulge us for a minute and tell us why?
Sue: Well I remember listening to it at the beginning and I have quite a lot of... I'm quite asthmatic, and a lot of my friends run, a huge amount of my friends run, and they're all trying to get me to run and I just peel off after about five seconds and collapse in a heap. And you had someone on, the sportswoman who'd done the marathon who had really rubbish lungs.
Mat: With the lung problems...
Sue: Yeah.
Mat: ... that's right yes.
Sue: And she went through what she did and she said, "No harm in stopping, no harm..." so you know I followed her routine. And I now run three times a week and I'm not on drugs anymore which is just brilliant. And the...
Liz: What are you doing next?
Sue: What am I doing.
Liz: What are you going to do next with him?
Sue: With my massaging?
Liz: Yes.
Sue: I'm aiming, if there's anybody interested, we're running workshops because a few massage therapists when they get older their thumbs and their hands go and they're quite interested, and so we're running some workshops that we've got on our website and seeing how they go. I'm working with a couple of disabled groups; one I can't speak about because it's confidential. So a couple of... and I'll be up for the Thalidomide Society and hopefully Mat's going to be my model and we're going to do a demo so you can get them going. This is in America.
Mat: If I'm available, if I'm free I'm available for sure.
Sue: Yeah.
Liz: So it's called... the DVD is called?
Sue: It's called Enjoy Feet.
Liz: Enjoy Feet and when it's available what's the website address?
Liz: Fantastic. Thank you so much it's been a real pleasure.
Mat: Thank you Sue.
Gideon: Thank you! I really enjoyed it.
Mat: Oh look at her she's tidying up now.
Sue: Well done Gideon.
Gideon: Thank you.

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