I have always liked the idea of Thanksgiving – a day to be with your loved ones and give thanks for the blessings of another year. We recently had a day of thanksgiving when our Caleb celebrated his first birthday.
This is usually a very significant day for parents. You have made it through the sleepless nights, the chaos and changes to the family dynamic that a newborn baby brings. You have helped your child navigate myriad milestones from rolling to sitting and eating solids to crawling. At one, your child is starting to talk and walk and make mischief. In the blink of an eye your tiny baby has become a toddler.
We feel very grateful for and proud of our little man. At the 20 week ultrasound we found out that Caleb had congenital Talipes Equinovarus which is commonly known as club foot. The condition was bilateral meaning that both feet were affected. One of my brothers had bilateral talipes so we were lucky to have this personal experience because we knew that, although this was not the news we wanted to hear, it was a condition that was treatable and had not affected my brother adversely in any way. Mark played Aussie Rules football for 22 years and has completed three marathons – a great role model for our club foot kid!
Despite our brave faces and positive outlook we were of course nervous and concerned about the health of our baby and the toll of the long, ongoing treatment to correct the position of his feet. When Caleb was born we were prepared for the way his feet would look but it was still confronting to see the extent of the deformity.
The treatment started when he was a week old. He was put into full plaster casts from his toes to his groin. These were changed once a week when he would have a lovely bath. Each week, Carolyn, his physiotherapist, would manipulate his feet a little more towards the correct position and every week when the plasters came off my jaw would drop at the amazing transformation. At seven weeks of age Caleb had a tenotomy, an operation to lengthen his Achilles tendons. Unfortunately, he had excessive bleeding after the operation and had to remain in hospital overnight and then have another general the following week so that his surgeon could ensure that everything was ok. He was then in plaster for three weeks while the tendons healed.
The next stage of treatment involved three months in special boots connected by a metal bar in order to maintain the correction. At this time he had to wear boots and bar for 23 hours a day. While it was awesome to finally have him out of the plasters and be able to bathe him every night, the boots and bar brought new challenges. After three months he graduated to wearing the boots and bar only during sleep. He will continue to do this until he turns 4 so I imagine his fourth birthday will be another special day of thanksgiving!
Like his uncle before him, Caleb has handled these early challenges with grace. He seems to have an easygoing nature that has served him well. The fact that he has never known anything different also helps, no doubt. He thinks everyone wears boots to bed so look out when he realises his sisters don’t have to!
We give thanks for so many things in the past year but the fact that our much loved little boy has a treatable condition is obviously something for which we are profoundly grateful. So many families are affected by chronic conditions that can’t be ‘fixed’ but merely treated. This is a tragedy and my heart goes out to those families, many of whom I have seen at the hospital throughout the past year, who struggle every day with the ongoing care of their much loved children.
Since writing the above article for Aurora almost another year has passed! Caleb has gone from strength to strength and is now an almost-two-year old who runs everywhere. Caleb started to crawl and pull himself up on furniture when he was 10 months old. He took his first steps on his first birthday and was walking confidently soon after. He has reached all his milestones at the normal times and has remained the lovely, happy little boy he was as a baby (he is starting to throw an impressive tantrum occasionally so a normal toddler now). He only wears his boots and bar to bed at night time now and is still more than happy to have them put on. He has never complained about wearing them and is a contented tummy sleeper. I have had trouble keeping his right boot on from time to time but I have successfully persevered with different techniques (including getting my husband to tie the laces) and it is staying on well. Carolyn, our physio, is really happy with his progress and range of movement. We are almost half way through his treatment and I feel very blessed at how smoothly everything has gone.