doctor in this story
My son, Gabriel, was born with bilateral clubfoot in October, 2011. We knew at our 20 week ultrasound that he would be born with this condition so we had time to research doctors and find one that we liked and that had great references. We were told to call Dr. Rajacich's office as soon as Gabriel was born so we could set up his first appt. Gabriel had his first set of casts when he was 7 days old. We went through one year of serial casting along with 2 minor surgeries that first year to release part of the achilles tendon. Near his first birthday, he needed to have a more invasive surgery that required overnight hospitalization at Mary Bridge and plaster casts on for 6 weeks. It slowed his development as far as crawling and walking by several months, but he quickly caught up and was doing great. Gabriel wore Ponsetti boots and a Dobbs Bar when he was not in casts. We found a program called Clubfoot Exchange that allowed us to get new boots for free and donate his old boots to other clubfoot patients. One of the issues that we ran into was finding clothes that could go over his casts. Most infant pajamas are footed which would not work even when he was in the boots and bar. We had to buy bigger socks to keep his toes warm. I remember wishing that I knew how to knit so I could make leg warmers that could cover his casts and keep his legs warm. These are just some minor things that clubfoot families run into during the treatment process.
After his first birthday, we began six month follow-up visits for awhile but was told by Dr. Rajacich that Gabriel might need another surgery after age 2 or 3 depending on how his feet are doing. He had a slight relapse on his feet over time and tended to stand slightly on the outer edge of his feet. It didn't keep him from walking or running and, in fact, he ran his first race in April, 2015, in the Seahawks 5K/12K/Kids Dash. He received a ribbon for his effort and there was lots of tears shed watching this little boy run on feet that, had he never had treatment, would've been impossible to do.
A few weeks after his race, Dr. Rajacich informed us that he thought Gabriel's feet had relapsed enough to warrant a fourth surgery. This surgery entailed transferring the anterior tibialis tendon from the lateral aspect of his foot to the medial aspect. He did a series of casting before the surgery to prime his feet for the procedure. This time, since Gabriel was now 3 years old and walking, he placed casts on his feet and lower legs that allowed him to walk. We found that the bottom of the casts were very slippery, so my husband made a pair of leather shoes that could go over the casts and allow Gabriel to walk without slipping and without filling his casts with dirt. Unfortunately, Gabriel did not have his shoes on one day and walked into the bathroom and slipped. He face-planted the toilet knocking out one of his front teeth and giving himself multiple lacerations on his lips. One trip to the ER, thankfully without having to receive sutures, followed by one trip to the dentist the next day and Gabriel recovered with just slight scarring on his lips and looking like a hockey player until his permanent tooth comes in.
Gabriel had his fourth surgery in June, 2015, and remained in plaster casts for six weeks again. He has recovered well through all of his surgeries never having complications. Through this journey, he has learned to take medicine like a champ and has done really well with the pain medicine provided after each surgery. He got right back on his feet after this last surgery and actually went through six months of physical therapy to help him learn how to use the muscles in his lower leg appropriately. He is now back on six month follow-up visits with Dr. Rajacich.
There are lots of resources out there for parents of children with clubfoot. My advice is to explore them and ask questions. Look for a good doctor early on and establish a relationship with him/her. They truly will become a second family to you. Meet with other clubfoot families. We've been through it and can give tips and advice and even donate items you might need. Gabriel's journey is far from over, but we've given him the best chance for a successful and productive life. This journey has made us empathetic with charities that work with clubfoot patients overseas. We've donated a lot of boots to Mercy Ships as well as to local friends we've met through online resources.