Courage and clubfoot

I know she is still just a baby, but it really is incredible to me how Olive has shown strength, courage and determination through the whole process she has been through, having been born with bilateral talipes. Not only that but she has done it in such a graceful, gentle and peaceful way. She has had treatment for severe bilateral talipes (clubfoot) on both feet from being 10 days old. She’s been through weekly painful hospital visits where her feet were manipulated and stretched into new positions and put in casts each week. She’s been cut having the casts taken off. She’s had sore skin from repeated applications of friars balsam to try and keep those pesky casts on her legs. She’s had casts slip off numerous times, an operation on the tendon of each foot and now wears boots and a bar everyday for 23 hours a day. She’s suffered from very sore and broken skin on her feet from the constant wear and rubbing of the hard leather on her bare skin. Yet she has done it all without any fuss, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. In fact she is a very calm and serene baby.

Newborn baby Olive with severe bilateral talipes.

Newborn baby Olive with severe bilateral talipes.


Heavy casts - still in the early stages.

Heavy casts – still in the early stages.

Olive looking like an orange  Gringe. Friars Balsam was used to keep her casts from slipping off. For Olive, this happened All. The. Time.

Olive looking like an orange Grinch. Friars Balsam was used to keep her casts from slipping off. For Olive, this happened All. The. Time. The Balsam was so sticky (and stinky) that it kept the casts in place, but it was difficult to get off and the soft padding stuck to her legs.

Olive sporting her boots and bar.

Olive sporting her boots and bar.

In the grand scheme of things, talipes really isn’t a big issue. We are so lucky to live in a time and place where treatment is so readily available and our beautiful little girl has the hope of being able to enjoy things that I know I have always taken for granted. How lucky we are! We are not yet at the end of the road with her treatment. She may need more operations, she will certainly have to wear the boots and bar for longer but the end is in sight now and after a rocky start she is progressing really well.

Overall the whole experience has been a good and uplifting one. It has taught our whole family a lot. I remember doing some lessons with the children last summer as part of our Mum’s summer MTC. I was heavily pregnant with Olive and we already knew she had bilateral talipes (we found out at the 20 week scan), though we didn’t know how severe it was. I taught the children a number of lessons about disabilities. We are all different and have different bodies, sometimes we can see those differences and sometimes we can’t but we are all of worth, are all important, all deserve to be treated with kindness and all have valuable things to give and contribute to others. I remember the children tearing up a bit when Dave and I explained that the baby we were going to have would have feet that were a bit different. They were so sad. Not because they would love her any less, perhaps the opposite actually. They feared other people would laugh at her.

Since Olive has been born I have only once (last week actually) encountered someone laugh at her. A boy who I thought was really old enough to know better, and I admit I did have to quench that mother’s rage which flew up inside me. Luckily none of that rage escaped my body and I was able to smile and move away!  On reflection though, I know that boy didn’t mean any harm. It was a naturally reaction to him. Infact I do know that he does suffer from an ‘unseen’ disability. He wasn’t trying to be rude or hurtful and I need to have as much patience towards his reaction as I expect others to show kindness towards my daughter.

We have had lots of genuine, inquisitive comments from little children too. They normally go along the lines of  “what’s that thing on her feet?” I normally give a straight forward, simple explanation which they are very happy with and let them have a good look. Dave however, usually tells them it’s a hover board just like Tree Fu Tom’s!

Olive's hover-board.

Olive’s hover-board.

Did someone say hover-board?

Did someone say hover-board?

I think as a family, we are all slowly learning to be a little kinder, more understanding and patient, more aware and inclusive of others. Obviously we can always do better, but experiencing talipes in our family has been a good experience for us. We do feel extremely fortunate that really, Olive’s condition can be corrected with relative ease.

Olive's recent trip to the beach where she paddled in the sea for the first time during her '1 hour off' a day.

Olive’s recent trip to the beach where she paddled in the sea for the first time during her ‘1 hour off’ a day.

Olive's gorgeous feet (again during her hour off)

Olive’s gorgeous feet (again during her hour off)

Unfortunately there are parts of the world where people born with talipes aren’t able to get this relatively simple treatment. This is so sad!!!

‘Global Clubfoot Initiative’ is a great resource to find out more about this. It links and supports charitable organisations who are trying to help those affected with talipes, who don’t have access to treatments around the globe. You can click through to learn more about individual charities helping on the ground in different parts of the world. The stories are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The most frustrating aspect of receiving Olive’s diagnosis of Talipes (primarily at the 20 week scan but then confirmed at birth) was the lack of information given to us. Once Olive was born and her treatment journey began there was great support for her and us, but there was a clear gap and strong need for more information throughout the duration of the pregnancy. Despite being one of the most common birth defects (affecting approx. 1 in 1000 births) the medical professionals dealing with me at the time didn’t know much about Talipes or what treatment might be involved. I had to do my own research on the internet – risky business people! We did however, come across STEPS. An excellent resource with the information parents really need to know about Talipes.

Watch this space for a post on Olive’s first (real) shoes…




5 Comments on “Courage and clubfoot

  1. Thank you for sharing Olive’s story in such a well written way. Appreciate also the journey you have been on that deepens your understanding, thoughtfulness and sensitivity ……. And the feet are looking great now!

  2. Lovely to have an insight into Olive’s journey made all the more poignant by knowing what a happy, smiley cutie she is.
    A very thought provoking and well written blog. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Heather- I am so touched reading this it is so beautifully written. Olive is such a cutey I love her little smiles and giggles you have such gorgeous children …… they have wonderful parents. Thank you for sharing this insight into talipes and your family’s experience xxxx

  4. Pingback: Courage and Clubfoot: Part 2 | Burdons on the Bay

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