Nola PaterniAssociate Director, Marketing & Communications (USA)
Caroline was alone when she went into labor with her third son, Ian. She called a neighbor to help her cut the umbilical cord. What should have been a joyous moment turned sorrowful as it was immediately evident to them both that something was wrong with Ian’s tiny feet–they were curled inward and upward, nested together.
Caroline was terrified knowing that there are few, if any, provisions for people with disabilities in Tanzania. Children who can’t walk, can’t go to school, and children who don’t attend school aren’t afforded the same opportunities as those who do.
Shame also filled Caroline. She was consumed with guilt wondering what she had done to bring this curse on her family. For many weeks she hid Ian from the world, always keeping his feet securely covered with a blanket anytime they left the house.
All that changed one day several weeks after Ian was born when Caroline visited a local health center and a midwife there referred her to a MiracleFeet-supported clinic near her home.
“The first time anyone saw my son’s feet was at the clubfoot clinic. They understood the shame I carried.” Caroline was beyond relieved to find treatment, but also relieved to finally share her worries.
Caroline also found something at the clinic that she hadn’t realized she was longing for: a community of mothers who understood what she was going through. There are over 2,800 new cases of clubfoot each year in Tanzania and over 6,000 children currently in treatment throughout the country. When Caroline found care for Ian, she also discovered a large network of support that she had been completely unaware of previously.
The staff assured Caroline that Ian’s condition could be treated and explained the process to her. She was diligent about bringing him to checkup appointments and about bracing, even joking that it’s all she thought about.
“When I saw my son’s feet could be healed, it felt like a miracle,” she says, smiling. Ian’s brothers were also excited when his feet were fully corrected. Now they can play together, walk to school together, and run through the lush forest that surrounds their home near the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Caroline is no longer ashamed and has a hopeful message for the world:
“A baby with a disability is not a curse. There’s no reason to hide your child. There is a place that can offer treatment. There is a place that can offer our babies hope.”