Children in this city and Benguet province suffering from a clubfoot will no longer have to endure being mocked for being different, thanks to a non-government organization that offers free services to correct their condition.
The defect, which is of still unknown reason, affects one in every 800 births worldwide. It is characterized by the feet pointing outward, upward or inward, making a person walk with an awkward gait and a limited chance of walking normally.
“The mission is to get all. It is a missed opportunity if people with clubfoot will not be referred to any of the 30 clinics nationwide,” said Daphne Sorensen, chief executive officer of MiracleFeet, a global non-government organization that helps people with the clubfoot birth defect.
Sorensen said these clinics provide free services like therapy, treatment and give corrective braces and shoes to people of all ages.
She visited this city to oversee the operation of the MiracleFeet clinics five years after opening in 2018 at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center (BGHMC) and at the Benguet General Hospital (BeGH) in the capital town of La Trinidad.
For poor families from far-flung areas, transportation assistance is also provided to assure that the patient can be brought to the clinic.
The clinics are manned by medical doctors and assisted by licensed physical therapists and several volunteers from the medical profession.
The Baguio clinic caters to a total of 79 patients whose defects were diagnosed at birth and who continue to avail of the free services and provisions for therapy shoes.
The Benguet clinic has 102 patients coming from as far as the Mountain Province and far-flung villages in the different towns of Benguet.
“Even private practicing doctors do volunteer work at the clinic because they find happiness and satisfaction when they see children walking normally after years of therapy,” said Dr. Antonio Nicanor Suero, medical specialist 3 at the BGHMC.
“We have a lot of patients because our existence had been known to the barangay health workers and the village officials of the 13 municipalities who refer to us patients discovered in the villages,” said Hyacinth Babag, a physical therapist and site coordinator at the Miracle Feet clinic in BeGH.
Both Suero and Babag said that parents and guardians of patients are cooperative and continue to return for check-ups and assessments to make some adjustments on their therapy shoes and get therapy sessions.
The therapy shoes are worn by the patient to correct the direction of the feet. It has a special material for the shoes to give comfort to the feet while being worn. It also has a specially designed brace with special material that is durable.
The material alone costs USD20 to USD22.
“Masakit sa isang magulang kasi tinatawanan at tinatanong bakit ganun and itsura ng anak ko. Madalas noon kapag pinapaarawan ko ang anak ko, ipapasok ko na lang ulit kasi pinapansin nila bakit daw kakaiba ang baby ko (It is painful for a parent to have a child laughed at by others and being asked why he is different. There were times while bringing out my child to have a ray of sunshine that I simply go inside the house to avoid queries from people),” said Mary Ann Quilaton, mother of three-year-old Mark Henry who was diagnosed with clubfoot at birth.
She said that after giving birth at the BGHMC, they were lucky that their son was immediately diagnosed and was referred to the MiracleFeet clinic.
Mary Ann said she made sure to get her son all the necessary treatment.
“Magaling na siya pero patuloy pa rin ang therapy para mailagay ng husto sa normal ang mga paa ng anak ko (He is now well but we still bring him for therapy so he could walk normally),” Mary Ann said.
She admitted crying whenever she saw her child in pain and uneasy while wearing the brace but was helpless and wanted her son to be healed.
Dr. Rosalyn Flores, a pediatric orthopaedic doctor at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital who manages the MiracleFeet clinic, said that clubfoot is one of the more common birth defects along with cleft palate.
“It becomes a disability if not detected and cured giving a person difficulty of finding a job,” she said.
She said there is now a move to include clubfoot screening among the required newborn disease screenings.
Flores said the development of a child diagnosed with clubfoot at an early age still have soft bones that can be easily corrected.
“The clinics accept patients of all ages because the chance of correction is still there if they undergo the therapy,” Flores added.
Worldwide, more than 200,000 patients are being handled by MiracleFeet across 35 countries. (PNA)