It’s perfectly normal for women to have a number of hospital checks on their babies in the lead-up to a birth. Utrasounds show the mother an image of her baby and help diagnose any potential issues. Whilst these scans can detect things like down syndrome, others conditions can slip under the radar.
Club foot is a condition that might not be picked up by an ultrasound scan. It can affect either one or both feet and forces the foot to face down, meaning it can’t be placed flat on the floor. Feet can also curve inwards, making it difficult to walk.
Club foot is normally apparent after birth. The condition can’t be treated until after the baby is born, but knowing about it does mean expectant parents have time to prepare relevant treatments with their doctors.
Fortunately, club foot is not painful for babies, but it should be treated early because it could become very uncomfortable as they get older. Ideally, treatment should begin within a few weeks of the baby being born. The child then has to undergo physiotherapy sessions to correct the deformity.
The most common treatment for club foot is called the Ponseti method. It employs physiotherapy to correct the alignment of the foot, which is encouraged into a better position and later put in a cast. This is done weekly for up to two months.
When that stage of the treatment is over and the baby has worn the last cast, doctors then perform a small operation. The Achilles tendon, situated at the back of the ankle, has to be stretched so the foot can be placed flat.
After that, the patient has to wear specific boots that are joined together with a bar. These are worn all the time for the first three months, and while the child sleeps, until they are up to five years old. All these precautions work together to make sure club foot doesn’t return.
The Ponseti method has a great track record of curing babies of club foot. According to the U.K.’s NHS, the majority of children enjoy painless, normal-looking feet after the treatment. Indeed, most still learn how to walk at the same age as their peers and have the freedom to play sport as they grow up.
Though club foot can be successfully treated, there are still some lasting effects. Different parts of the foot or leg can grow at different rates. And some children find that they have one foot smaller or one leg shorter than the other one. This can then affect the child’s mobility.
Although the specific causes of club foot are unknown,is it believed that genetics may have a role to play. For instance, if both parents have it, then there is a one in three chance that their children will have it too.
Landon Pearson from Minnesota is one little boy who knows the trials and tribulations of club foot all too well. Indeed, he spent his first five years wearing corrective braces and casts. His treatment was a lengthy affair, but finally, his feet were fixed and he could buy normal shoes.
Understandably, Pearson was elated to be able to buy shoes that didn’t require room for the corrective equipment. Landon’s mother, Natalie Shuneman, told NBC 2, “He was born with a club foot. It’s why his foot is turned up and in.” But now it was time to put that all behind them.
It was a big deal for Landon and his family, indeed it had taken them years to get to this point. They headed to Albertville, Minnesota, to an Under Armour store, a shop that specializes in sports-related clothing and accessories. There, they intended to buy Landon’s very first pair of normal-fitting shoes. But there was a hurdle that they weren’t expecting.
The store manager, Sean Kelly, measured Landon’s feet and to everyone’s surprise discovered that his feet were a whole three sizes apart, ranging between size three and six. This made finding a pair that fit impossible.
Heartbroken, Natalie explained what had happened to Landon’s feet on Facebook. “Anyone who knows [him] knows he was born with a club foot and has struggled ever since the day he was born,” she wrote. “As [Landon] grew older his right foot did, too. However, his left foot being casted so much did not allow his left to keep up.”
In an interview with KARE, Natalie said, “I was shocked because I thought it was only maybe a shoe size difference and three shoe sizes is kind of a lot.” It was certainly a tough ask, but Natalie was determined to get the shoes her son wanted.
It looked like Landon’s dream was slipping through Natalie’s fingers, so she took action. The mom proceeded to tell store manager Sean her son’s story. She told Newsner, “I struggled to hold back tears as I always do, but Landon loved these shoes so I knew regardless I was buying both.” She concluded that there was nothing else to be done and said, “‘Well, we’ll buy both.’”
Clearly moved by Landon’s story and Natalie’s emotional reaction, Sean made a deal. Explaining the story to KARE, he suggested to the mom, “How about you buy the [size] three, I’ll buy the [size] six. He gets to go home with the pair that he wants. Why not make him happy?” Natalie couldn’t believe her ears.
And Sean did just that, paying for one pair of Landon’s shoes from the goodness of his heart. Of course, Natalie couldn’t have been more grateful. She wrote on Facebook, “Not that we wanted a hand-out or couldn’t afford them, but he wanted to do this for a little boy who loved these shoes. Seriously, I’m amazed by how kind people truly can be, to make a kid smile.”
Meanwhile, Landon is elated with his new trainers and showed them off to the team at KARE. “They’re a nice yellow and orange,” he said. “I like shoes that have color. I saw them up on this giant billboard and I thought that they were pretty cool.”
And Landon wasn’t just delighted with his new trainers, he was also taken with Sean’s incredible gesture. He praised his hero in an interview with KARE. “He was a really nice guy. It was really thoughtful to pay for the shoes.”
Natalie was never going to let this act of kindness go unnoticed. So she contacted the Under Armour district manager straight away to explain what Sean had done. Her email made such an impact that it was sent to the top executives at the sportswear chain.
Landon also gave Sean a thank-you card when he visited the Under Armour store later on. He and his mom had gone to find the young boy a school backpack and as soon as Sean caught wind of this, he went out of his way to make this special for Landon too. Natalie was bowled over by his endless kindness.
When they mentioned that they were looking for a backpack, Sean disappeared and came back with a backpack full of goodies for Landon. And if that wasn’t enough, the store gifted them five buy-one-get-one-free vouchers to make it easier for Landon to buy two pairs in different sizes.
Natalie dedicated a Facebook post to Sean and the team, outlining their generosity. She wrote, “Some may see this as a small gesture but to us it’s huge. As if the first story didn’t [pull] at your heart strings, this only solidifies there are good people out there.” The mom added, “Sean didn’t have to do this, Under Armour didn’t have to do anything. But people made things happen, to be kind.”
For Natalie, one of the best parts of their story is that it increased awareness around club foot. In the same post she wrote, “This story has also brought so much awareness to club foot and I have luckily connected with so many people who also have this condition.” She added, “Crazy how this internet works in positive ways when people like you simply share it. Share away people. Keep Facebook positive!”
For Landon, things couldn’t have gone better and he’s loving live outside of the corrective casts and braces. Landon cheerfully told KARE, “My foot feels free. They’re my favorite pair of shoes.”
Sean was more than happy to help. When he was interviewed by KARE, he admitted, “I just love helping people, to find what makes them feel more happy and comfortable in everyday life.” Sean couldn’t have done himself prouder.
In August 2018 Natalie posted an update on Facebook, praising Sean and the team. It read, “They have no idea how much this means to us. Landon feels like a celebrity walking into Under Armour and the team members recognizing him from his picture in the back.”
Sean’s act made both Natalie and Landon’s lives so much easier, because now they don’t have to worry about buying two pairs of shoes. Natalie wrote, “This takes a huge burden off us trying to find shoes. We looked around a bit today and honestly it sucks trying to find two pairs in different sizes and styles. Thank you again Sean, you truly are an amazing person.”
The heartwarming story quickly became viral on social media, encouraging positive interactions and discussions on awareness. A video about the story by HeartThreads drew a lot of discussion. One user wrote, “My sister has a club foot and has to buy two pair of shoes every time.”
Club foot is an easy condition to treat in developed countries with reliable health services. However, in poorer parts of the world, it can be more difficult. But one charity which supports club foot clinics worldwide, Miracle Feet, has had stunning success treating patients around the world. But one beautiful story in Tanzania is particularly warming.
Samsoni was one of the first patients to receive treatment at Usa River Rehabilitation Center Tanzania, thanks to Miracle Feet. Their work has made an enormous difference in countries including Liberia, Ecuador and Senegal.
Samsoni started his treatment in 2015 and dutifully wore his braces for two years afterwards. Fortunately, the condition has never stopped him leading an active life. His parents deemed it necessary for their child to receive treatment so he has more opportunities available to him in later life.
Samsoni’s parents hope that one day he will become a doctor. And the Ponseti treatment gives him a better chance of getting the education needed to attain his goal. Indeed, according to Human Rights Watch, children with a disability in Tanzania are twice as likely to never attend school as those without one.
Miracle Feet cited another example, that of Dieuveilles in the Republic of the Congo. He went to its clinic in the capital city Brazzaville, where staff diagnosed his condition and pronounced it treatable, much to the surprise of his parents.
Dieuveilles’ parents had believed that their son’s condition was a punishment for something they had done in the past. Indeed, cases like this show how important awareness is. And Miracle Feet explained that an important element of its work is to make parents aware that club foot is treatable in the first place.
After learning more about club foot, Dieuveilles’ parents now look at it in a completely different way. Their new outlook will help the young boy find his place in society, because there will be less stigma attached to the condition.
Eight casts later, Miracle Feet reported in June 2018 that Dieuveilles had begun wearing braces. And his parents were thrilled with his progress. Indeed, they have started spreading the word about club foot and its treatability. After all, it is never something to be ashamed of.
For Landon, Samsoni and Dieuveilles, club foot presented its challenges, but all three endeavoured to overcome them, albeit at different times. If these stories have shown anything, it is that awareness is absolutely key to erasing any stigma attached to the condition. And, crucially, they show that a random of kindness can go an incredibly long way.