A Long Search for Treatment. A Teen’s Life Transformed.

October 09, 2019

When Miguel was born fifteen years ago in a remote village of Guatemala, his parents noticed his feet right away. They were first-time parents and quite young themselves—Miguel’s father was only 17—but they took one look at his twisted feet and felt confused and concerned about their child’s future.

“I asked my neighbors what to do, and they told me that is just the way he is; that’s how God made him,” recalls Miguel’s mother, Maria. “When a child is born like this it’s good luck,” others told her.

No one told them there was a treatment for clubfoot. At the time the now-standard Ponseti method was scarcely available in most low- and middle-income countries—and surgery, although less effective, was even rarer. It’s why millions of children and adults around the world live with the painful, stigmatizing disability this leading birth defect causes.

But Miguel’s parents never gave up. They began a long search for solutions to help their son. As the years passed, and their family grew, Miguel learned to live with his disability. He was able to walk—with difficulty—and could only wear rubber boots or plastic shoes.

“I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to leave the house,” he said. “My classmates would make fun of me and it hurt.”

Then everything changed. A little more than one year ago, Miguel traveled with his parents to a hospital in Xela, the nearest city three hours away, where they learned treatment was possible through a clinic supported by MiracleFeet and its partner, Asociación de Padres y Amigos de Personas con Discapacidad de Santiago Atitlán (ADISA).

“I want to help children who need help. Children who have feet like I had.”

Travel time and costs were the only remaining barriers to Miguel’s care. The weekly $40 cost of taxis for each six-hour round trip was insurmountable, and limited public transportation didn’t align with clinic times. In addition to supporting the clinical network and health workers providing clubfoot treatment in Guatemala, MiracleFeet covered the family’s private transport to ensure Miguel got to his weekly appointments.

Today, Miguel’s feet are fully corrected, and he has returned to school where he is thriving. He is the top student in his class and a role model for six younger siblings.

Each day, he pedals his bike over steep hills, past the cornfields that his parents farm, enthusiastic about going to school—the opposite of how he used to feel—and he dreams about his future. Miguel wants to be a doctor. “I want to help children who need help. Children who have feet like I had. I was fascinated when my parents took me [to treatment], the doctors were so kind, they helped me, they tended to me so well.”

“He’s always wanted to be a doctor,” said his father, Francisco, who works as a farmer and weaves textiles when harvests are low. “He’s experienced what a doctor can do for people, and so it is the vision he has.”

And Miguel is not the only family member who plans to pay it forward. His parents want to spread awareness to help other families who might be searching for a solution to clubfoot—just as they spent so many years doing. “I just want all families with this problem to hear about it so they know that, yes, they have the power to change this,” said Francisco.

In 2017, MiracleFeet started working with ADISA to train more providers in the Ponseti method and to support six clinics now offering treatment.

95% of the 200,000 children born with clubfoot each year can be completely treated through a nonsurgical method. It corrects the feet and provides full, lasting mobility—for less than $500 per child.