“Here’s to us!”
That would be the traditional response at a time when everyone is celebrating a wonderful feat (or is that feet?) like this. But actually, these staff members are more likely to say “Here’s to them!”
That’s because LAMB’s Rehab department has worked hard for just over three years seeing child after child come through the doors needing the relatively simple treatment they give that really, truly does give life back to whole families. They were the first pilot clinic for an organisation called Walk for Life (WfL) which launched officially after the LAMB trials proved successful. Today they began treating their 200th child.
This boy, unusually for Bangladeshis, looks older than he is. He’s nearly four but looks closer to six! It’s possible this might be because his birth certificate is wrong (such things are so common in Bangladesh it is barely worth commenting on) or maybe the parents are ‘helping’ a little with the age because, for this treatment to be effective, he should ideally be under three. For newborns with clubfoot the success rate with this treatment is around 96%. The older the child gets, however, the more likely that the straightening will not hold and clubfoot recurrences are likely.
Parents are desperate though, and for this kid it may be their last hope for him to have anything like a normal life. It’s not the first time Rehab have had a child look ‘unusually old’.
Nevertheless, my wife, Vikki – who runs the Rehab department and LAMB’s clubfoot work – believes this kid will almost certainly benefit from the Ponseti treatment they will receive.
“His feet are never likely to be completely straight,” she tells me, “but he should be able to wear shoes and walk normally.”
This sounds like a good result to me but I did wonder why the parents left it so long to have this boy treated. He would have had the clubfoot from birth.
“They may well have tried other treatments in the past but the foot slipped from the casts and the turn recurred. They may just have given up until hearing about this treatment”
Hearing about the Ponseti method is something the organisation WfL are trying to get into every area of Bangladesh. They aim to correct all clubfeet for newborn children in the country by a process of training national staff in Government hospitals and getting the message out there that this treatment is available for all newborns. Informing the world is also an important part of this work too because all this treatment requires wages for staff doing the treating and materials cost money. WfL is a charity organisation and depends on support from around the world to pay its way.
Another celebration then, is Vikki finally having an article – analysing the first 5,000 feet treated in Bangladesh treated through all the clinics – accepted for publication in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics (I’ll let you know when if comes out). This is a major step forward in giving recognition to the work carried out in Bangladesh. This, it is hoped, will also help spread the word about this worthy cause. At the moment there are just under 40 clinics offering this treatment in the country but around 5-6,000 new clubfoot births every year. WfL are far from achieving their goal yet and it is an uphill struggle.
But, today, it is not the struggle but the victory that is in the minds of the Rehab staff. 200 children have received or are receiving the treatment and most will be able to walk and have a normal life instead of being classed as disabled and, often, unable to work or marry. This is truly life-giving because it gives quality back to both the children and their parents who may otherwise have to tend for their young all their lives.
“Here’s to the next 200” is not a sentiment you’ll hear from LAMB rehab. Instead it is more likely to be “here’s to an end to clubfoot for good.”
I hope, one day, I will report they have succeeded.