Today’s post is a bit of a departure from what you typically see on the Signature Style blog. This Saturday is World Clubfoot Day and I’m celebrating by telling you about how our tiniest intern, Anna, now has perfect feet. Bring on the beautiful shoes!
Anna’s Clubfoot Story
Though I knew of clubfoot, the first time I heard the word in relation to our second daughter, Anna, was in the delivery room. They had just taken her sweet chubby body off of me to the adjacent nursery to take her measurements and vitals. In the other room I hear the nurse tell my husband Charlie that Anna had a clubfoot. I, from my hospital bed where I was still working on the postpartum delivery, started arguing with her insisting that she was wrong. I’ll fast forward several weeks and tell you I lost that argument.
Anna was diagnosed with mild idiopathic (translation – not linked to any other issue) clubfoot in her left foot and we began the Ponseti method when she was 10-weeks old.
Quick Bit of Background
A few background details for those of you who haven’t been hearing and researching clubfoot and the Ponseti method for the last several months. Clubfoot is a congenital birth defect where the foot is twisted in at the ankle due to a shortened tendon. It can be a symptom of a more serious issue or as it is in Anna’s case, unrelated and cause unknown.
The Ponseti method is a manipulative method for treating clubfoot that just became the accepted standard of care in the early 2000s. The process starts with 4-8 weeks of casting depending on the severity of the deformity. Every week a new cast is applied to accommodate growth and continuing to move the foot little, by little, to the correct position. Once the foot is correctly in line with the leg and no longer twisted in, a tenotomy, a surgical release of the tendon, is performed to allow the foot to bend into a proper, neutral position. After three weeks with the foot casted in a correct (neutral) position, the tendon regrows and reconnects to the bone (amazing right??). After the foot is corrected, boots and bar are worn for roughly three months 23hrs a day and then anywhere from 3-4 years during naps and nighttime. Now that I’ve explained that…
We started with the standard first step – casting. Anna’s super active and chunky legs meant she routinely kicked off the casts (I have a fully intact, full leg cast to prove it!) so since we were in the office so often we ended up doing a combination of the French method (daily stretching and manipulation) and the Ponseti method.
The Ponseti method is effective, and we’re so grateful that Anna was able to receive this form of treatment. That being said, we were not excited about the prospect of putting Anna under full anesthesia for the Achilles tendon surgery, which most children with clubfoot need.
Though the process is standard and the surgery itself quick, we prayed from the beginning that Anna would not need surgery. That God would supernaturally stretch her tendon and she wouldn’t need a tenotomy. The method is so standard and routine in the treatment of clubfoot it felt a little strange to do so but we stepped out in faith and began praying. In the process of praying, I opened my Bible for direction on how to pray for healing and it opened to Jeremiah 51:15,
“He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”
Stretched out?? Not fashioned, formed, flung up, tossed up, created, made, but stretched?? Jesus, please stretch Anna’s tendon like you stretched the heavens by understanding alone.
Anna’s foot corrected quickly and after four weeks of casting, we had a surgery date on the calendar. That was the worst feeling. Praying for something and feeling like time was running out. We weren’t going to delay treatment but wanted more time for God to work (even though He always has the time He needs)!
Our surgery appt was scheduled for a Thurs and we were meeting with the anesthesiologist the Tues before. We had all been a bit sick and after an hour of grilling the doctor on the procedure, he got up to consult with the other doctors involved and determine whether we could proceed with the surgery.
As he was leaving the room I said, “Ok, but we are still praying that the surgery doesn’t happen.” His response floored me. Without hesitation, he replies, “Well, you know that no matter what, God is on the throne. He is over Anna’s life and He’s over all the doctors that will be in the room with her.” He leaves to find some answers while I bawl at the sweetness of the truth he’s just spoken.
He comes back 15 minutes later with bad news to them, good news to me. The surgery has been delayed! Since everyone had been sick, they decided to postpone the surgery three weeks. Guess what takes three weeks? Tendon growth! Praise Jesus. Not a final answer but I’ll take it.
That night we were praising God for the delay while also wondering what to do next. The answer came quickly. The next day in our ortho appt our doctor says exciting words, “Since we are delaying the surgery, let’s go ahead and start casting to stretch the tendon.” We were thrilled to say the least.
We continued the casting process for another three weeks, returning almost every other day for new casts because Anna, though she has the sunniest disposition ever, is also a Houdini and could slip out of a cast like no one’s business.
The Part That Makes Me Cry Happy Tears Every Time
We were coming up on the three-week mark and we were heading to our next-to-the-last appointment. A new surgery date was on the calendar and the hospital called me the day of our appointment to collect payment for the surgery. I declined and asked her to call me again the next day as we were still unsure of whether we would be having the surgery at all.
Up to this point, the doctor had great success in getting Anna’s foot to move but in this appointment she looks up at me and tells me she can’t move her foot anymore without causing a rocker ball deformity (where the process of pushing against the too-tight tendon causes the bottom of the foot to form a reverse arch). I slowly nodded my head and said ok.
The next moments are crystal clear in my memory and I have such a hard time getting them down on the page with the same awesomeness with which they occurred. She gets a quiet, determined, and possibly a little surprised look on her face, looks down at Anna and tries again. The next words she said make me cry even now as I relay this story for the umpteenth time. “I have her foot at neutral. We are going to go ahead and cast her in this position.” It’s as if God, in that moment, reached down and stretched her tendon. Praise Jesus.
Boots and Bar
They cancelled the surgery and the following week Anna was fitted for her boots and bar. We weren’t completely out of the woods on the surgery decision. To make absolutely certain the surgery was unnecessary, Anna would have an X-ray at 6 months old to confirm the heel bone was moving correctly and wasn’t being pulled out of position by the tendon.
The first few days of boots and bar wearing were rough. Anna liked to sleep on her side (made easier by the weight of the casts) and the bar made it hard for her to get comfortable. She became super twisty and figured it out though. lol. After all the excitement and frequent reassurance that our prayers were being heard, we had a pretty uneventful two months of boots and bar wear. And all of the sudden the X-ray date was a few days away.
The Final Verdict
Perhaps because we’d been in an uneventful waiting period, I had a crisis of faith the Tuesday before our Thursday appointment. We were on the floor in Anna’s room saying prayers and getting the girls ready for bed. Kate had turned on her instrumental lullaby music and forwarded to a new song. Before I even had a chance to register the song the words went across my mind from way back, “’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus. Just to trust Him at His word…. oh for grace to trust Him more.” Thank you Lord for this sweet encouragement!
The next day as Charlie was doing his Bible study he sends me a text, “you’re never going to believe what we are reading today. Check out Zechariah 12:1.”
“The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth…”
Stretches out!! We went into our X-ray appointment excited and ready to hear good news.
Anna was a saint during the xrays, looking so tiny on the X-ray bed but smiling the whole way through. Five minutes later we had the answer in black and white. Anna’s foot, tendon and heel were completely healed!
As of last week we are now in night and nap time only wear of the boots and bar. The only evidence of a clubfoot is a slight turning in of her foot when she gets excited. Even her calf muscle and foot are the exact same size next to the other non-affected foot. She’ll have to complete the remainder of the process – regular check-ups and nighttime boots and bar wearing until she’s three or four to prevent relapse but her foot is now perfect.
Help For Others
Throughout this whole process I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude at the “what ifs.” What if Anna had been born 20 years ago? What if she had been born in a country that didn’t have the resources for this fairly simple, effective and life-changing corrective method of clubfoot? We would be telling an entirely different story.
Before Anna was officially considered a “clubbie,” her sunshine disposition was already evident. I had commented to Charlie that Prov 31:25 “…she can laugh without fear of the future.” was definitely her verse. Since going through her clubfoot treatment and learning how children of other cultures are ostracized, often sent to orphanages without family support, and experience a loss of dignity in their communities I revisited that verse in Proverbs as I looked for how to share our story. I couldn’t believe the beginning of the verse that I had somehow overlooked when I first saw the verse. “She is clothed with strength and dignity…”.
Motivated by our own experience and new understanding of how easily this congenital issue could be corrected, I began researching non-profits that help with the more than 1 in 1000 children born with clubfoot every year. I found CURE Clubfoot, now Hope Walks. I found an organization that not only works to heal physical disabilities but works with the families to share the love of Jesus. I’m new in the process of partnering with Hope Walks but their history of sharing the hope of our ultimate healer, Jesus, while providing physical healing to these precious little ones is something I want to be a part of.
I’m an image consultant, I understand the importance of the right pair of shoes. But for Anna, and the thousands around the globe born with clubfoot, a pair of shoes can change a life.