A Special Touch in Clubfoot Care

September 07, 2023

“I love specializing in clubfoot because I can use touch to identify the degree of the symptoms and the curvature of the feet,” shares Rachida Bettioui, a physiotherapist at the Ibn Sina hospital in Rabat, Morocco. “Clubfoot is one of the only disabilities you can feel and do not need to see,” she continues as she runs her hands over the foot of a newborn visiting the clinic for the first time. This is especially important to Rachida, who lost her sight completely when she was 30 years old.

Rachida attended University Mohammed 5 in Rabat, Morocco, originally studying economics. It was during a school break after her third year that she lost her sight. She pursued several different treatments but to no avail. She had to accept that she was now permanently blind.

Unsure what to do or what kind of future was possible for her, she started studying the Quran and, just by listening to it, memorized it in its entirety. She then received a Quran written in Braille as a gift and started researching Braille to learn more about resources available to blind people. She soon found and joined an association for blind people where she met others like her who were coping with losing their sight and having to learn to navigate the world anew.

Morocco: A Special Touch in Clubfoot Care

When she first joined the association, she was shocked by the independence of the other members. “I couldn’t believe it—they were walking by themselves, they were laughing. I thought, surely they can see. But one day, I dropped my stylus, and everyone started to look for it using their feet,” she recalls with a smile. “That’s how I knew they were really blind—like me.”

Today, Rachida does physical therapy work with clubfoot patients, but she also oversees parent education—an important component of clubfoot treatment. Since the Ponseti Method is an iterative process which relies on parents to consistently return to the clinic with their child for follow up appointments and follow through with bracing, it’s important for parents to understand how the method works, what to expect, and how to support their children through care.

“I’ve built strong trust with the mothers,” shares Rachida. “I try to understand their concerns and explain exactly what they need. And when the child is eventually fully treated, the mothers thank me for comforting them and assuring them that it will be alright.”   

In the clubfoot ward of the children’s hospital, Rachida also oversees the storage and organization of the clubfoot braces arranged from smallest to largest. She also shows parents the correct way to put on the foot abduction braces, which is crucial in preventing relapse.  

Rachida is a member of Premier Pas, MiracleFeet’s partner organization in Morocco responsible for clubfoot treatment in five different university clinics. Premier Pas provides technical, organizational, and financial support to Moroccan hospitals so that they can provide affordable and effective treatment, using the Ponseti method as the standard for treating children born with clubfoot in Morocco.

Today, Rachida walks to and from the hospital with no cane or assistance, a 20-kilometer journey.  Arriving at work, she moves around the clinic with familiar ease. She has a luminous smile, bright green eyes, and an incredibly warm demeanor. It is obvious that she is very well known and well respected by her colleagues. Junior clinic assistants sometimes help her navigate between patient appointments and clinic rooms, but more often than not, they are instead guided by Rachida as they learn from her unique perspective on life.

Watching her work, it’s easy to see why she’s so good at her job – because she loves it – loves working with children, helping families, and transforming the futures of those affected by clubfoot.

Happy World Physical Therapy Day to Rachida and to all the physios around the world who make our work possible.

Clubfoot has many heroes

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