Our story began 38 years ago when my Mum and Dad had me, their second child…When I was born, Mum noticed something wrong with my foot and when she asked, the Nurse said “Your baby has a club foot”, see your GP about it when you get out of hospital. That was her introduction. No explanation, no words of support and certainly no information. Mum can still recall the tears she shed in the shower following my birth and the inevitable question “Will my baby be OK?”.
In those days (and we’re talking 1971 here) the process was somewhat more involved and certainly more invasive. I can’t tell you what grade of club foot I had, they did not score them in those days, but the first round of treatment began at 9 weeks where I spent 3 weeks in hospital having my “manipulation” as they called it. From Mum’s recollection this meant a gradual change in angle of my foot (similar I guess to plastering) except the movement was daily and splints were used. These were heavy metal splints with moveable foot plates (moved with a large screw head) that gradually moved both feet into a better position over this time. When I finally got home, I then had to have a physio change the splints weekly. This was an interesting exercise – at home, Mum had to swab the skin from foot to knee with Friars Balsam. This provided the barrier for the sticking plaster that held the side of the splints in place on the leg. Gradually, the foot was moved until it , and the other, good foot, were more or less in a straight line. This took several months.
At 11 months, I had an operation to cut the tendon in the heel. The scar stretched from heel to about half way up the leg (and still does). I was in plaster then for 2 months. Apparently this didn’t stop me from standing or trying to walk, but of course, I couldn’t until the plaster was removed- then I took off on my own steam almost overnight!
My only recollection of the whole experience remains the “brown boots” that in those days were an integral part of the denis browne orthosis. I still remember my “treat” after I no longer had the wear the boots. Mum and Dad had bought a pair of red, patent, Mary Jane shoes. They were the best things I’d ever seen and the brown boots became a long distant memory!
Also I would like to add that I have never suffered physically from having a club foot and in my teens played a variety of sports including Hockey, Softball, Netball, Swimming and even won a state championships in Rowing!
So when we were pregnant with Jack (our second child), we found out at the 18-20 week morphology scan that we too had a child with a unilateral (left) club foot. However unlike my Mum, I knew exactly what it was, had time to prepare and was offered all sorts of counselling in order to “cope”. Before he was even born we knew that he would have plasters, then a tenotomy, then splints until he was around 4 years of age.
The whole process has been relatively pain-free (not sure about Jack but for us!). He went into plaster at 4 days old (first day out of hospital) and continued to have weekly plasters applied until his tenotomy at 7 weeks then another 3 weeks of plaster . Fairly standard procedure to my understanding. He is now 12 months and has had the boots and bar on since the last plaster was removed around the age of 10 weeks or so. He now only wears them for sleep which in his case is about 15 hours a day (including 2 day sleeps). He is crawling, pulling himself to stand and is just starting to cruise around holding on to furniture which is exactly the same time frame as his older sister who does not have a club foot.
All I can add is that having a club foot has not impeded anything I have done in my life. I expect the same outcome for my son.
The piece of advice I would also give is NEVER make a big deal out of it, NEVER exclude your child from any physical activity because of your fear and NEVER talk about it as a disability as it is not so. I understand many people are shocked and saddened for their child and perhaps even themselves when they learn of their child having a club foot. It is no impediment to having a great, active life.