Saturday, November 8, 2014

Clubfoot Files: How You Can Help

Welcome to another edition of The Clubfoot Files!  It's been awhile!

Clubfoot is a very small part of our lives now.  Harper wears her brace at night, but putting it on is such an ingrained part of our nightly routine that I don't even think of it.  I don't think of Harper as a "kid with clubfoot" like I used to.  And rightfully so - she's been cured, and our current setup is simply prevention of recurrence.  She was fully healed, thanks to a fairly easy, fairly painless, and fairly inexpensive treatment process (ok, it wasn't always easy, painfree, or cheap, but compared to many other birth defects, it's easy!).  

Harper at 2 years old showing you can still be sassy in your brace shoes.

The Ponseti method of casting and bracing allowed her to have a fully-functioning foot by the time she needed to use it to crawl and walk and run and dance and jump (ok, she's not really jumping yet - her jump is a hilarious yet unsuccessful attempt to leave the ground.  but that's just lack of coordination.)  

You can also have a nice bedtime snack of cucumber and corn while wearing your special shoes.
Yet there are children all over the world who are born with clubfoot and do not get the chance to be so easily healed.  They live in areas where, due to lack of resources, education, and support, they never receive treatment.  They grow up with a debilitating physical impairment that causes them physical and mental suffering.  They cannot work, they are ostracized, they cannot walk without pain.  Considering how relatively easy it is to cure clubfoot, it's a terrible shame that so many children grow up without the chance to be healed.

Although clubfoot is so common, treating it is not a cause that is widely recognized or supported by the masses.  There are many great organizations that work to help those affected, but they simply aren't commonly known outside of the clubfoot community.  In a world where there are so many causes pulling at our hearts and our wallets, it's hard for clubfoot treatment to compete.

I've mentioned here before about Miraclefeet.  I have nothing to do with this nonprofit beyond the fact that I follow the work they do to help treat clubfoot worldwide and I like what I see.  When Harper outgrows her braces, I send them to Miraclefeet so they can recycle them and give them to kids who cannot afford them otherwise.  They are a small, relatively new charity in the world of charities, but I know they are making great strides to helping kids worldwide get a new chance at life.  They are growing and reach out to 12 different coutries currently.  They empower local health workers to practice the Ponseti method, which has an exponential effect on the number of children who can be helped.  They have even worked to develop a new brace that costs only $20! and can be mass produced (so awesome) for use in many of the impoverished countries they work in.

I really encourage you to go to their website to learn more about their work.  (Again, I have no affiliation with them, I'm just encouraged by their work!  I know there are many groups out there working to help clubfoot, and I think those are great too!  I just happen to have more personal experience with Miraclefeet.)

What's great about clubfoot is how treatable it is - and how relatively inexpensive it is to treat.  Often, plaster casts and braces are all you need, which is easily implemented in countries with few resources - no fancy surgeries or medicines needed.  

Through Miraclefeet, a $250 donation will pay for the COMPLETE Ponseti treatment for one child.  This includes the casting, the braces, and even transportation to the clinic where treatment will occur (undoubtedly a big obstacle for many families).  We've easily spent thousands more than that on Harper's treatment, as we are lucky enough to be able to see specialists and buy new braces and fancy socks.  

It's somewhat mind-blowing to me that a child's entire life can be turned around for the cost of part of our grocery budget for a month or less than what we'll spend on electronics that will be discarded in a year or two.  A sweet little baby who happened to be born with a little crooked foot in a country where treatment is just not a readily-available option can have the chance to walk with no pain and avoid a lifetime of burden associated with clubfoot.  Yes, $250 is a lot of money, but when you think about the entire life-changing power it has, it's really a very small cost. 

We have been blessed with much.  No, not much compared to the ideals in our country, but so very much compared to most of the world.  I am so glad we were able to donate to Miraclefeet this year, changing one child's life, a child we will never know or meet, forever.  I cannot wait to help more children next year.  It's a cause that is near and dear to my heart and I am so glad to pay it forward.  I want to make it a priority.

I write this not to pat myself on the back, because man I wish we could donate more and more!  Our donation is small.  But I'm hoping I can use this blog as a platform to reach other clubfoot parents who are as extremely blessed as we are.  We have had the opportunity to treat our children in top quality hospitals with brand new braces and even cute cast covers. We didn't have to worry about our safety in traveling to the doctor.  We didn't have to worry about our child being shunned in a world that doesn't understand why her foot just happened to be a little crooked when she was born.  We don't have to fear for our child's future.

I'm hoping if you are a clubfoot family and have room in your budget this year, you will consider also paying it forward and helping another little baby have a better life, just like you helped your own baby.

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