My Right Foot

Gordon McGuire's becoming a role model for the severely disfigured. But he's by no means any sweet-natured Elephant Man type.

As Gordon finished high school and entered college, Whitlock says he and Gordon's parents became more concerned about the boy.

"Even then, his feet and his body were beginning to cause him more problems," Whitlock says. "He was beginning to feel more ostracized and beginning to feel more pain. He was pretty quickly moving into a state of rebellion."

As his family headed to Paradise Valley, Gordon began his freshman year at Wayland Baptist University in Texas. In his second semester there, McGuire and several other students were caught smoking pot. He was suspended from the school for six months.

Gordon McGuire with his new foot and his new dog Doogan at McGuire's mother's house in Paradise Valley.
Irvin Serrano
Gordon McGuire with his new foot and his new dog Doogan at McGuire's mother's house in Paradise Valley.
Gordon McGuire at age 3.
Gordon McGuire at age 3.

At the end of the suspension, he decided not to return to the college. He no longer wanted anything to do with the church. He instead moved in with his family in Paradise Valley.

"I pretty much lost track of him at that point," Whitlock says. "We've only just begun speaking again. I just feel like he was lost for so many years."


While in Detroit, McGuire worked at a machine shop. He spent much of his free time his last two years of high school in his dad's wood shop. He liked working with his hands.

When he moved in with his parents in Arizona, he started carving wooden train whistles. After he had made enough, he hit the road selling the whistles door-to-door.

He worked as a night stocker at a nearby grocery store. He also worked as a traveling salesman.

He attended junior college at Glendale Community College, then, later, at Scottsdale Community College. He studied hypnotherapy.

He was a good worker and a good student, but nothing ever seemed to lead to much.

As he approached his 30th birthday, McGuire began working with the developmentally disabled at the Phoenix Valley of the Sun School. He began dating a fellow counselor and, soon, the couple decided they wanted to get married, settle down and have children.

They both had always wanted to live in California. McGuire found a job as a package meat manager for a grocery store in San Diego.

Soon after he took the job, he was transferred to a store 60 miles north in Lake Elsinore.

"At that time, Lake Elsinore was pretty much the armpit of the Earth," he says. "It was the murder and drug capital of California."

Soon after that, he was laid off. Digging through the want ads, he found a driving school looking for instructors. After passing an instructors' course, he was soon teaching driving in Orange County in Southern California.

At home, he and his new wife worked at having a baby. But no luck. In short time, the newlyweds were spending much of their time arguing.

But work was going well. The owner of the small driving school in Orange County wanted to pursue a career in music. He soon began grooming McGuire to take over the business.

McGuire finally saw his chance to make something of his life, to make it in business. He was relatively pain-free and feeling good about existence as he was driving home from work the afternoon of January 20, 1993.

Around a blind curve, a newspaper reporter was making an illegal U-turn in a rush to get to a plane crash.

McGuire hit the reporter's car going 35 miles an hour. The impact of the collision drove the side of his seat up into his chest and side.

In the days following the accident, the pain inside McGuire's torso escalated. He could feel fluid pooling inside him. After several days, he felt a whoosh of fluid drop from his chest to his lower back, creating two fist-size lumps on his lower back. The pain spread throughout his body. His feet began to throb, his chest began to spasm constantly.

"It felt like a perpetual heart attack," he says.

"That was the turning point for him," his father says. "He was never the same after that. The pain just took him over. After that, his life was all about trying to deal with the pain."

Doctors didn't know what to do. As they ran tests, they discovered a body that didn't work like other bodies.

Arteries and veins were tangled, sometimes pumping blood to dead ends. Surgery seemed impossible because doctors would be cutting into the unknown.

The doctors in California ordered all of McGuire's medical records from around the country. McGuire was standing with the doctor when he opened the file from Colorado, which McGuire had never seen.

"The doctor looks at this picture and goes `whoa' and hands it to me," McGuire says. "I look at it and just stared in disbelief. I was looking at a circus freak. Then I realized it was me."

It was the photo of McGuire as a toddler, right before the giant growth was removed from his side.

"All I had known was the scar and the fact that my feet were huge," he says. "I had no idea how big that thing was. All of a sudden, it was clear that my whole insides were messed up with something."

One doctor mentioned a condition called Proteus. Another mentioned Klippel-Trenaunay. After a few months, McGuire didn't care what doctors were saying. He was in too much pain.

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