• 70°

World Clubfoot Day now has significant meaning to my family

No parent wants to hear that their unborn child may have anything where the words “congenital deformity” are involved; however, the addition of the word “correctable” does tend to soften the blow.

My grandson, Julian, was born in January 2016 and is now 18 months old. During a regularly scheduled ultrasound during my daughter-in-law’s pregnancy, it was revealed that he would be born with at least one club foot.

Our family knew little to nothing about clubfoot and relied heavily on doctors and the advice of other parents who had little ones with the same condition.

In the back of our minds, we knew there were “worse things” out there and were thankful that other than this deformity, Julian was born healthy.

Saturday was World Clubfoot Day and like most designations of this sort, the main goal is to bring awareness to the condition and give hope to other parents receiving the news their baby will be born with the condition. There is hope. Clubfoot is correctable in just about every case if diagnosed early. But there’s hard work and time spent at doctors and there are tears.

Julian’s first few weeks of life were spent in casts on both legs, up to his hips. He couldn’t take a bath, and holding him took some getting used to. The right foot was significantly turned, while the left foot only seemed to be slightly turned. However, both would require surgery.

It was a difficult time for Mom and Dad too. Not only is it hard to know your tiny baby is undergoing any type of surgery, but an infant doesn’t know that what’s happening to him is for his own good and that it will one day lead to him successfully and gleefully running around the yard. All the baby knows is he’s hurting and he can’t move and he doesn’t like it one bit and there’s only one way for that baby to tell everyone how he’s feeling — he cries. A lot.

Clubfoot is a congenital deformity involving one foot or both. The affected foot appears to have been rotated internally at the ankle. It is a relatively common birth defect, occurring in about one in every 1,000 live births. Approximately half of people with clubfoot have it affect both feet, which is called bilateral club foot. In most cases, it is an isolated disorder of the limbs. It occurs in males twice as frequently as in females.

With treatment, the vast majority of patients recover completely during early childhood and are able to walk and participate in athletics just as well as patients born without CTEV.

Several notable athletes were born with club feet, including NFL cornerback Charles Woodson, Olympic figure-skater Kristi Yamaguchi and former NFL quarterback Troy Aikman.

Julian still has to wear braces every night and will for probably another year or two to prevent the feet from turning back in while his little body grows at nighttime. He still cries every night when his parents put on the brace. Who can blame him?

Being in heavy casts and wearing heavy braces for most of his first 12 months, his leg muscles were underdeveloped since he would avoid moving his legs due to the heavy weight.

He goes to physical therapy twice a week and he can now walk while holding onto something and his legs are getting stronger each day. His precious little feet look just like his big brother Adam’s feet. The doctors at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital did an outstanding job correcting his club feet and now it’s just a matter of building muscle and making sure the feet remain in place as he grows.

There are a ton of resources out there for parents with clubfoot babies and my children found several online communities where parents share their experiences and support each other.

For now, I watch as each day brings new accomplishments for him and wait with anticipation for the day Julian runs into my arms, and I know that day is coming soon.

Alyssa Schnugg is Senior Writer at the Oxford Eagle. Email her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com.