Monday, 20 May 2024
Monday, 20 May 2024

MiracleFeet: It Takes a Village for Clubfoot Treatment

THEY say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true for treating clubfoot – especially when the path to treatment is anything but straightforward. When Nora, 31, became a mother for the first time, it was her own little village that helped her navigate finding treatment for her son.

After an emergency C-section in a hospital near their home in Escuintla, Guatemala, attending nurses informed Nora that her son, Victor, had both clubfoot and glaucoma. She was advised to get his eyes checked immediately but told that his clubfoot wasn’t as urgent and could wait to be attended to after his first birthday. Without further guidance, she was sent on her way.

Back home and alone with her new baby, Nora’s mind was a melting pot of emotions, fears, questions, and responsibilities. Why her child? What would other people say? Should she try to find treatment?

She said:

“I was sad and desperate. I had no idea what do to.”

Overloaded by decisions and paralyzed by fear, she fell into a depression and refused to accept that her son needed to see a doctor. When her family called to check in, she told them she and Victor were both fine. She sent them photos and neglected to tell them about the clubfoot, pretending that if she could ignore it, maybe it would just go away.

It was Nora’s sister-in-law, Olga, who noticed Victor’s little curved foot in the photo and began asking questions. She did her own investigation and, concerned, even showed the boy’s photo to a doctor. Convinced something was wrong, she began to persuade Nora that Victor’s foot needed attention.

Olga remembers:

“At first, she didn’t accept it and she said, ‘That’s how he was born, that’s how he’s going to live.’”

Olga encouraged Nora to make the two-hour trip to visit her so they could work out a plan. Victor was just 12 days old when he and Nora arrived at Olga’s house. It was meant to be a short visit, but Olga’s house ended up being their home for the next eight months.

Living with Olga and her family, Nora and Victor found the village—the community—they desperately needed. With a house full of aunts, uncles, and cousins, Nora felt the emotional support that every new mother deserves, and Olga quickly became not only a source of encouragement for Nora but a supportive grandmother figure to Victor.

Together, Nora and Olga found a clubfoot clinic and enrolled Victor in treatment. On Mondays, he received a new cast on his foot. Then, it was up to the family to remove it on Sunday, and then repeat the process again, week after week. After twelve weeks, the doctor said that Victor now needed to wear special shoes: shoes that would cost 1,500 quetzals (~USD$190) and were only available in a city four hours away. The doctor gave Nora a phone number to call to purchase the shoes, but every time she tried calling no one picked up.

Olga remained determined and she and Nora brought Victor to another facility in Técpan where they were eventually connected to FUNDAL, one of MiracleFeet’s partners in Guatemala. They made an appointment for 7:00 am the next morning but at 4:30 am, they were already outside waiting.

At FUNDAL, Nora and Olga finally found the clubfoot team they’d been searching for. The search had taken so long though that Victor’s feet relapsed and he had to start treatment from scratch. This news exasperated Nora. She felt like they were going in circles and was tired of watching Victor suffer through cast after cast with no results. But Olga wasn’t about to abandon their mission.

She said:

“We came home and talked about it. We decided we were going to do the treatment. We said this is for the good of the baby – he has to move forward.”

With the whole family behind them, Nora and Olga began again with Victor’s treatment, now at FUNDAL, travelling on the bus two hours each way for every clinic visit. Six casts and one tenotomy later, Victor’s feet were again straight, and he began the bracing phase to ensure they stayed that way. Today, he still wears the brace during nap time and at night, and, with support from his family and the FUNDAL team, he is thriving. In the care of this little village, Nora now allows herself to dream about her son’s future.

She said:

“I want him to be happy, to grow, to study and to achieve everything he sets out to do, to always support him. I want to see him conquer the world.”

At one year old, Victor is just learning to walk, eager to begin exploring the world and catch up with his older cousins. On nice days, Olga spreads a blanket on the hillside outside her home, where Victor likes to sit and feel the grass between his toes. His dimpled grin says it all.

Olga said:

“We’re all here. Here, he is loved by everyone.”

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