Coping with a child born wiith Bilateral Talipes

My partner and I found out our baby would have Bilateral Talipes at our 20 week scan, we were told this was a deformity and that we would need to attend King’s College Hospital in London for further scans. When we had this news it felt like the end of the world, our gorgeous little baby was going to have something wrong with it, we were devastated. They also did checks to make sure he didn’t have cleft lip or anything else, this was when we started to think ourselves lucky, at least it was just his feet that would need treatment, it could have been his heart, lungs or any other vital organ, I think that’s how we accepted it.

We found out we were going to have a boy. We found that by knowing what sex our baby would be it would help us prepare ourselves, so the next day we went and bought lots of baby boys clothes with poppers under the legs, we had been told our baby would go into splints so we wanted to buy clothes that would fit over them. We had a scan at 28 weeks to just to make sure our baby was growing properly.

When I gave birth, naturally, after just a 5 hour 10 minute labour seeing our gorgeous baby boy was the best feeling ever, and to be honest I didn’t even look at his feet for a couple of hours, not because I didn’t want to, it just didn’t seem important, he was here safe and sound and healthy and that was all that mattered. After 5 days my local hospital put his legs in splints, these went from the toe to just under the knee, these were changed weekeept telling the hospital this but they said not to worry just keep trying so I kept trying, this went on for 7 more months, taking Mitchell to 9 1/2 months old. By now he was walking, but he walked on the top of his feet not the sole, when we had our next appointment I told them about this and they said not to worry it will probably correct itself and to come back in 3 months.

I left feeling very confused as surely this couldn’t be right, after a week of moaning to my partner about it we decided to find a hospital that did the Ponseti method as I’d been on a club foot forum and lots of members had said how wonderful and successful this treatment was. I went to my local GP and explained the situation, she was very understanding and ended up writing 3-4 referral letters for me to a list of London hospital that practice this method. We ended up going to The Royal London in Whitechapel in London just days before Mitchell’s first birthday.

As soon as they saw him they asked why we hadn’t had treatment sooner so I had to explain we had, I felt terrible for not getting something done sooner. I should have trusted my instincts not my local hospital who only use a basic treatment method. The consultant, Miss Malaga Shaw and physio, Di Coggings and all the staff at the Brian Roper Unit were wonderful. I’m so grateful to them. They checked Mitchell’s feet for severity. They grade each foot out of 6, 6 being the worst, Mitchell’s right foot was 4 out of 6 and his left foot was 5.5 out of 6. I don’t know how my local hospital could say they were fine.

Mitchell went in to plaster casts straight away, they positioned his feet in a way that would help them correct themselves, they said it may take longer to repair because of his age and size but he shocked us all, and after just 1 week the severity had gone down to 2 out of 6 and 3.5 out of 6, these casts got changed every week so they could re position the feet. After 4 weeks they had to leave him cast free for 2 weeks as he had very severe sores caused by sweat and movement where he kept walking, walking and climbing in the casts. On the 28th December he had a Tenotomy operation on his left foot, he was then put in casts for 4 solid weeks. Leaving him in theatre to have the operation was heartbreaking but it was so worth it. He came out of his casts on the 24th January 2007 and his feet looked great, a little sore but in great shape, they seemed so long instead of cute and dinky but they looked normal. He could walk and climb and pounce and everything in the casts, I’d imagined him not being able to do anything in them but he proved me wrong, he virtually ran with his push along walker. I’m so proud of him and so very grateful to the Royal London for all their support and treatment. I know I left it late to get the correct treatment but this just proves it can work on a toddler and it shows how well they adapt.

We then started our journey with his boots and bar, this was very hard at first but yet again Mitchell adapted really well and learnt to crawl in then and then jump and walk in them. He still has to wear them now, every night. We let him have Saturdays nights off as he is getting close to the end of his treatment. There hoping he can come out of then in February when we have our next appointment. I love Saturday evening when he is boot and bar free, I go in to his room and lift the covers just to see his little legs curled up like ‘normal’ children instead of his legs being shoulder width apart all the time.

I’m hoping this will give new parents with a talipes baby the hope that we had, although we didn’t really get that hope until Mitchell was 1, but every time I see him running around I’m so happy as I thought he would never be able to run like he does. Those of you that have met Mitchell would probably never guess his been through so much to look at him. He is a very brave little boy who has dealt brilliantly with all his treatment.

By Nicky Dawson, Mum to Mitchell and Jamie

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  1. Great article Nicky. You've done so well as a family to come through all this and still be so strong. Mitchell is such an active, energetic little boy I doubt anyone would ever know what he'd been through.

  2. Excellent story. Glad you stuck to it and finally found the Ponseti method. Not sure if you know, but Dr. Ponseti just recently died at age 95. Sad day for the world. Best of luck and thanks again for sharing your story!

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