When I first got a look at my new baby sons foot, it really was not as bad as the horrors that I had been playing out in my head. His little foot looked just that, like a baby foot. Only thing it was turned inwards from the ankle. It was as though he was turning his foot inwards, only it didn’t move from that position.
We really didn’t pay too much attention to his foot the first few days. He was a healthy, big boy. Our main focus was trying to breastfeed and getting connected with our new little man. The doctor treating Mason in the hospital came in and told us that she had made an appointment for us at CHEO (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) for the week following our discharge, to see a orthopaedic to access Mason’s foot, and to just go on until then as normal loving him up!
We really didn’t even at this point tell many people that there was anything wrong with his foot, cause to be honest we still didn’t really know if they were 100% classifying it as clubbed foot or not. So 10 days after Mason was born, my husband and I went off to CHEO and met with Dr Willis of the orthopaedic department. He immediately diagnosed Mason to have a club foot, and described the method that he uses. The Ponseti Method. I was so pleased, as this is what I had researched and wanted for my son if it was needed. So Dr Willis recommended that we start that day.
(Description: the Ponseti Method is a series of casts of the whole leg. Before each cast the doctor flexes the babies foot out slightly from the clubbed position. The cast is left on for a week, then repositioned and casted. This goes on for about 4-5 weeks. Then there is a minor surgery, then re casted for 3 weeks. At which point if all is well, the baby goes to wearing shoes on a stationary brace. But I will explain that more later)
So with teary eyes, we took our 10 day old baby into ’The Body Shop” as they call the casting area at CHEO, to receive his first full leg cast. He was so tiny lying there, but so well behaved. It didn’t bother him at all. They used a fiberglass cast which covered him from the top of his groin, to the tip of his toes. It was really something to get used to. He was only 10 days old to begin with, so we really didn’t know his cries or his personality, let alone have to get used to having our baby in a full leg cast. Putting on clothing was really hard. He could only wear certain types of sleepers, and pants that were larger in order to fit his cast. We could only sponge bathe him in order to keep the cast dry. The hardest thing, was cuddling him. It was harder to cradle him in our arms or get comfortable. We didn’t know if his cries were out of discomfort or otherwise. It was a tough first week adjusting to the new cast.
So for the next 4 weeks, we went to CHEO for them to take off Mason’s cast, stretch his foot, reposition it a little further out and recast. Every week you could see a great improvement with his foot when they would take the cast off. Mason’s foot was doing so well in fact that instead of 5 weeks of serial casting, he would only need 4. So the 5th week we went to CHEO he underwent a small surgery. They go in and cut his Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendon is ‘shrunk’ which is what causes the foot to curl inwards. So by cutting it and then over correcting the position and recasting, it allows the Achilles tendon to ‘reconnect’ and be a normal length and allow the foot to move and stretch. So Mason had the little surgery, and then was re casted. This cast stayed on for 3 weeks straight.
At this point, they remove his cast and we are sent to an orthopaedist to get fitted with a pair of shoes attached to a stationary bar. If at this point we were to go without anything on his foot, the likely hood of it reverting back to the clubbed position is 100%. So the shoes & bar will help hold the foot out at a specific degree, actually over correcting the foot. He will need to wear the shoes/bar for 22-23 hours a day, for the 1st three months. Afterwards, only at night time while sleeping, until he is 3 years old. So in all, it is a very long (but worthwhile) process.
After the first week, the casting was actually a very easy process. Even the surgery went very well, and bothered Mason very little if at all after the initial surgery day. So the process was seeming so easy compared to what we expected.
The first couple days with the bar and shoes, Mason was to wear the shoes only, get him used to them before adding the bar. Those days were fine, we thought we were smooth sailing! Then we added the bar. My heart could have broken. He hated it. He could not move his legs individually. He had to move them both up at the same time, and that was the only position he could do – move up and down vertically. He cried a lot. I cried a lot.