At Vicente Sotto Hospital in Cebu, Philippines, a young boy wearing a MiracleFeet brace sits among a large group of children gathered at the clinic to meet with their treatment providers and representatives from the MiracleFeet team. The boy’s mother, Michele, smiles, poised and beautiful. Her son stays very close by, seeming shy and a bit nervous. Michele begins to tell her story.
“My son just started wearing the brace. He is five. He just finished treatment. He had eight casts. Before he walked like this,” signaling with her hands that he had walked on the tops of his feet. She removed his boots attached to his brace to reveal the dark marks across the top of his foot where callouses used to be. Treatment is more common and readily available in the Philippines, so seeing a five-year-old child with untreated clubfoot is quite abnormal.
“I live three hours away,” she says. “I have little money. I knew I couldn’t afford medical care for him.” Her eyes start to fill with tears. “I was frightened as I thought he would be bullied for the rest of his life. Then my sister saw a poster. It showed a picture of feet like his and said treatment was free – so we came.” Michele became emotional and hugged her son close. “I am so grateful. Thank you.”
So many aspects of this story are very compelling – the anguish and guilt of not being able to help your child and the worry about what a life of disability in a Filipino village would mean for his future and how a few simple things put in place can change the equation for a child like Xylord. All that is needed is training, parent education, transport subsidies, braces, and Plaster of Paris. And in this case, a MiracleFeet Program Manager’s thoughtful idea to send every parent home with a poster to put up in a prominent place at their local clinic or school. Simple, cheap, and – it turns out – very effective. The fact that a five year old, who was destined never to walk without pain and stigma, is now treated is evidence that what MiracleFeet and our partners are doing makes sense. And while it is never easy, especially at first, it is also not that complicated if figured out clinic by clinic, country by country.
Doctors can be trained and countries can officially claim they provide treatment to children, but at the moment, most places require a little more than that to make sure the children get to the clinic, receive quality care from casting to bracing, and that the mothers feel supported enough to come back for regular check-ups for five years.
MiracleFeet remains strongly committed to our vision and work hard in order to give more kids like Xylord a chance.