I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m learning so many things in this journey with Mason’s medical needs. Before my son I had never met a child with Spina Bifida, with hydrocephalus, or with clubfeet. At least not that I can remember. Now I’m being immersed in entirely new worlds of terminology, medical professionals, treatments, and challenges. Today I’m going to share what I’ve learned about how we’ll treat Mason’s clubfeet.
What is Clubfoot?
In the womb a child’s foot or feet form normally but somewhere around the third month the affected foot/feet begin to turn inward/downward. Both of Mason’s feet are affected, as you can see in this photo:
What are treatment options today?
In short: surgery or casting with subsequent bracing. The most effective and least invasive method is called the Ponseti Method of casting, and this is what we are pursuing for Mason.
What is the Ponseti Method?
A qualified doctor manipulates the foot into position and a cast is placed from hip to toes, holding the foot in position. The earlier this is begun the better because the bones and feet of a newborn are flexible. After a series of casts the child uses a brace to continue treatment. The Ponseti website for parents is here.
What is the general plan for Mason?
At this point we think Mason will have new casts placed every week for 6 weeks, with the last cast staying on for up to 3 weeks. Then Mason will get a foot abduction brace that looks like this:
It is made of an adjustable length aluminum bar with adjustable footplates onto which shoes attach. Typically, the shoes are set at 60-70 degrees of external rotation and 10-15 degrees of dorsiflexion. The shoes are straight last, meaning there is no curvature, so they can go on either foot.
Mason will wear the brace 23 hours a day for the first 3 months. We will then work down to 16 hours per day, and about 12-14 hours per day when he turns 1 year old. At this point he’ll mostly be sleeping when the brace is on and free of the brace during the day. Mason will continue wearing the brace until he is 4-5 years old, which really surprised me. I had not expected it to be such a long treatment process but a child’s feet can relapse if the bracing is not done for the correct amount of time. Each year the brace is worn drops the chance of a relapse by a whole lot!
What I’m Grateful For:
Lots of things, but in relation to Mason’s clubfeet treatment I’m most grateful for the following:
- Living within an hour’s drive of a very experienced orthopedics doctor who has used the Ponseti method successfully for years. Our travel time could be so much longer.
- Living in a time and place where treatment is available. There are many places in the world even today where children’s clubfeet go untreated, or incorrectly treated.
- The things I’m learning spiritually because of all Mason’s needs. I can’t read the scriptures anymore without noticing the times where Christ healed those who were unable to walk, who were sick, who had been disabled in some way from childhood. The ironic thing is that reading it does not make me jealous for my son to have the same experience. Instead, it reminds me that there will be a day when Mason’s body is resurrected and he will be healed. I know that his body was created by God with these physical challenges for a good purpose and that when Mason and those around him have learned all they can from this that Mason will be blessed to receive a perfect body for eternity. I am grateful for a compassionate Savior who is with Mason and with us each day of this imperfect mortal existence to comfort and guide us.
It’s an amazing journey. There are moments when I feel overwhelmed by looking down the very long road ahead of us. I have to keep reminding myself to focus on today, that God gives us daily bread (read more about my thoughts on that here). I love every moment with my precious son. I love seeing my other children’s hearts reach out to him, embracing Mason’s differences wholeheartedly. We are learning so much together as a family!