Friday, 19 April 2024
Friday, 19 April 2024

MiracleFeet: A heartwarming story of overcoming clubfoot challenges in Cambodia

WORLD Clubfoot Day, celebrated annually on June 3rd, is a chance to raise awareness of clubfoot – in the UK, and around the world. A major obstacle many born with this debilitating condition often face is access to proper treatment, without which a child will face a lifetime of pain, stigma, and limited mobility. 

In light of this, we are sharing a truly heartwarming story about a family in Cambodia who, after overcoming many hurdles, have found not only treatment for their son’s clubfoot but also love and support. 

Sarom, now 32 years old, was born in rural Cambodia in 1991 with unilateral clubfoot – her left foot severely twisted at the ankle. However, this was at a time when the condition was not widely understood or recognized. The midwife assisting Sarom’s mother, Svay, had no knowledge of clubfoot or how to advise Svay on care. 

With no access to medical professionals and no information available about treatment, Sarom’s parents had no idea how to help her. Desperate to do something, Sarom’s father created a makeshift foot brace out of bamboo in an attempt to correct her foot, but the pain was too much for baby Sarom so after just a few days her parents removed the brace and accept that there was no cure for Sarom’s foot. 

Sarom was teased and bullied at school because of her oddly shaped foot and awkward gate. The physical disability also meant that she wasn’t able to help her family work in the rice paddies so instead stayed home alone. She was resigned to the fact that she would never find love or have a family of her own. However, her life took an unexpected turn when a phone call from the wrong number changed everything.

One day when Sarom was in her late teens, an unknown number called. A man from another province in Cambodia had accidentally dialled her number intending to reach someone else. They started chatting and connected in a way neither expected. Before they knew it, they were talking regularly. Their conversations continued over a few years, all the while, Sarom was too nervous to tell him about her clubfoot, afraid that he would not want to talk, much less meet her, given her disability. But she knew she had to tell him if they were to meet. 

Summoning her courage during one phone conversation, Sarom told him:

“I have a disability…I know you won’t want to love me once you’ve seen me.”

Expecting him to end the relationship there and then, Sarom was shocked when he replied:

“It doesn’t matter what kind of disability you have, I love you.”

Not long after, the couple met in person for the very first time and married shortly after. 

Soon after, the couple found out they were expecting. However, at the 6-month prenatal scan, the doctor told Sarom that her baby would also have clubfoot. She was heartbroken. 

Sarom said:

“As a mother, it was a feeling I can’t describe…I knew if I couldn’t find him treatment, he’d never be able to walk.”

To worsen the news, the pre-natal scans showed that Sarom’s baby’s clubfoot was more severe than her own, affecting both feet. Her husband’s love and support never faltered and he assured her that they would find treatment for their son. 

After their son Phat was born, the couple was delighted to find that clubfoot treatment had advanced significantly since Sarom’s parents searched for it many years prior.  They took him to a nearby clinic and were eventually referred to the National Pediatric Hospital in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Here, MiracleFeet’s partner, NextSteps, offered free clubfoot clinics. 

Phat was treated almost immediately after birth using the Ponseti Method (the gold standard of treatment involving a series of plaster casts to correct the angle of the foot, followed by a tenotomy and then a foot abduction brace is worn to prevent relapse). 

Phat is now three years old and has shown remarkable progress and resilience. He spends his days running around the yard, full of energy and free of pain. It is only at night that Phat must wear his MiracleFeet brace to ensure his feet stay straight. He is one of the 81,000+ children MiracleFeet has helped around the globe. Treatments mean Phat is free to enjoy his childhood, and his parents can look forward to a bright future for their little boy. 

For more information visit the MiracleFeet website: www.miraclefeet.org.

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