Caroline’s Story

My name is Caroline, I’m eighteen years old, and I was born with club feet. My Mother tells me that as soon as I came into this world, the entire hospital room came to a silent halt. They told her that both of my feet were a little twisted, but that there wasn’t much to worry about. Of course, they were wrong.
My first doctor wrapped my feet and legs in casts, and eventually tried small infant braces, but nothing worked. Eventually, my parents got a second opinion and decided to go along with surgery. It had become the only option.

My surgery was successful, minus the curve of my ankles, long scar up my feet, and underdeveloped calves. As I got older, things were okay. I never really noticed anything different with me; I ran, I jumped, I walked. But I started to notice that people would treat me a little differently when I hit middle school. My friends’ parents would always take bench breaks when we went to amusement parks or museums, but despite my friends’ displeasure, their parents would remain adamant and give me a knowing smile. However, it would leave me stumped. I assumed everyone went to bed at night with achy feet. I didn’t understand the special treatment.

Two years ago, I decided to get a part-time job at a local grocery store, like many other high schoolers. I didn’t think much of it, in fact, the only thing I thought of was how nice it would be to have my own money. I was wrong.
After standing on my feet at a cash register for hours on end, I left the store that night in tears. My grandmother picked me up from the store and I threw myself into the backseat of the car, sobbing. My feet were swollen and throbbing, and when we got home, I had to resort to crawling around the house just to get around. Resting my feet would only cause them to ache more when I had to get back up. In those few hours, I realized why we would always take those bench breaks.

My Mother scheduled an appointment with a local foot doctor to see if he could do anything for my feet. His first reaction was: “This is the most mutated pair of feet I have ever seen. Forgive me for the strong word, but I’m shocked you can even walk!”

He then went on to tell me that my working at that grocery store was like trying to shove a square block into a triangle hole-it just didn’t work. I was wasting the time I had with my feet,and with that, he informed me that if I continued to go down the route I was on, I was going to lose most ability with my feet.
He took foam imprints of my feet and saddled my mother with a hefty bill for professional insoles. I wear them every day, to this day, but they do not help.
Right now, I have started my first semester as a Freshman at Appalachian State University — I have never felt pain so real in my entire life. My ankles give out when I go up and down stairs, I have constant shin splints, and my right foot is always limp. I have ten minutes between two classes three days a week, and the class I am getting to is on the fifth floor. There is one elevator, and it is known to get stuck. I took the stairs and, unfortunately, by floor four, I had to physically lift my legs from behind my knees just to get my foot on the next stair. My feet had become numbed deadweight, and my peers stared sympathetically as I practically dragged them down the hallway, frantically trying to be on time.

I am slowly trying to come to terms that college might not be something I can handle. At the end of August, I am either going to decide to stay, or go. I’m not sure what to do, and it is the scariest decision of my life. I feel like I am giving up, but I also don’t want to drag myself back to my dorm every day with swollen and tender feet. If there is any advice anyone could give me before my month is up, that would be wonderful.

6 thoughts on “Caroline’s Story”

  1. Stephen,
    I am so very sorry for your daughter’s single clubfoot. Having 2 May seem worse but easier for shoes & appearance. I understand her Achille’s tendons. My left left had heel chords stretched twice, my right, once. Leg surgeries straighten bones. In 1946. I was born with 2 severe bilateral club feet turned around toward my feet. 12 surgeries later, I abandoned modified shoes, a bar between them at night as a toddler & wore “regular” shoes which stretched to resemble my wide (EEE). Flat feet. My leg muscles have always been weak but my ortho. Enabled me to walk. I was fitted for molded shoes around 40 something, 30 yrs. Ago. Now, i can’t locate someone to make new molds (feet change w/age) & shoes. Don’t let your daughter be defined by her feet. I was raised to be independent, do anything I wanted. I was never interested in sports but education to become a speech-language , communication disorders. Between gathering students for sessions in public schools, I sat. It was a better choice than my childhood goal of pediatric nurse. I had a 37 yr. Career. I never spoke of my history because I knew (wasn’t told) it was private business in the ’50s & ’60s. No one explained reasons for procedures then or considered counseling for my feelings. It was just steps in my life. I’d encourage your daughter to let her feelings out with a professional before age 24 when I started. She will learn to answer people’s questions and deflect their comments. I never had any until I had a job interview with a physical therapist who questioned my ability to travel to several sites to provide services for the non-profit he administered. It would be best if she’s not shocked and awakened to people’s stupidity when she applies for a position. My feet & legs are the least of my numerous medical issues at 70. I hope your daughter will say the same someday. Good luck to your, her, your family.

    1. Caroline, My 18 YO daughter has 1 club foot. we found out with an ultrasound. We casted her for 1 year then She Had surgery at 1 year old. the Dr. spliced her achilles and lenthened it to straighten the foot and repositioned bones. She would not have been able to walk without surgery. her foot was shaped like a question mark with her ankle on the ground. She is doing Very well now and Plays varsity Field hockey and jogs, runs jumps etc… she does have foot cramping, small foot and underdeveloped right calf. and long walks and hikes are tough on her. also right foot is 4 sizes smaller than left. Need two different size shoes. I read your story. and I hope you are well. I can empathize. It’s not so bad… I jsut wish it wasn’t. i hope that she is OK as she ages. i hope you are well.

  2. Hi Caroline, I just read your story. I was wondering if you have had any surgeries on your feet? I don’t think you have to give up on college. There are a lot of options out there. Maybe part time classes or some on-line classes. And there are supposed to be help for ppl who need it, like you. Don’t give up on your dreams, just find the right path for your journey. Good luck and God bless

  3. My son Tatenda was born with club feet . Had three
    surgeon procedures down . He can walk but its really difficult for him .He needs a special type of shoes, he cannot talk clearly , he cannot hold fine items like a pen . He has to go for fine motor skills therapy. He goes to a special school . Would appreciate happy in getting another surgeon and more fine motor skills therapy . He is 9 years old TATENDA IS HIS NAME

    1. I must reply about Tatenda. In the US. He wouldn’t be in a special school, he’d be with his peers supported by physical therapy as well as speech and language therapy (my mission for 37 yrs. In public schools in CT. You will need to advocate for him to receive these services if they are not routinely provided. I don’t know what country you are in. Locate a parent advocate to help you or bring a friend. Don’t be afraid to tell the school principal or teachers what he needs. He deserves support. Treat him as you would any other child, expect him to improve and give him responsibilities for things he can do at home. I would consider a second or third opinion from another orthopedist and expect more surgeries to enable him to walk more comfortably, especially in 2016! If I lived near you, I would evaluate his speech and language skills and donate my time working with him he deserves no less and you need support too. In my prayers…

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