Hi my name is Joe. I’m 25 years old and was born with a club foot. I think i could give you all some info on what it feels like growing up. Maybe kids reading this can identify with me, and parents could have an idea what their children are going through. If this helps at all, I’ll be happy.
My right foot was slightly turned inward at birth. Something my mother had noticed but was told by doctors just to “rub it” and it will be OK. You have to remember this was 1981. She demanded to see a specialist and was granted her wish. The Doctor immediately diagnosed me.
Growing up in my early years I lived a pretty carefree childhood as all other young children do, never felt much pain in my foot and didn’t really realize anything was wrong with me. But once I started school, kids being kids will let you know pretty fast.
Around the age of 7 or 8 virtually anyone who observed me could see a slight limp and was quick to point it out. As a result of my surgery, one of my calf muscles was bigger then the other. I started to get teased often by the other kids, and wound up getting into a lot of fights. Even though my foot was corrected by surgery, a club foot will never be a fully functional foot. My right foot to this day has a stiffness to it that is not present in my left. The range of motion in the joint is minimal. By around the age of 10 or 11 i started to walk with an undetectable limp, teaching myself to do so. The limp was only slightly present when running
I started really taking to sports to prove to the kids around me that even though i was born with a club foot (and i never, ever, let anyone know that, to this day ive not told anyone that I had a club foot) I could still beat them in physical activities. Maybe I just needed to prove to myself that I was normal physically, despite the fact that i observed differences with myself and everyone around me, and had it pointed out to me regularly. I took up basketball and used it as an escape. my left leg was pretty fully developed. The left calf muscle was larger then the right and stronger, in fact, it was pretty freakishly huge. I would learn to dunk by jumping off my left leg, and was dunking a basketball by the age of 14. (I was only 5’8″ at the time!)
Even though I was always the best player among my peers, I never went out for the school teams. This mystified most of my friends. The reason was very simple. . . . I had always played basketball wearing pants. I had become sensitive to ridicule about my calf muscles being different sizes, so I never wanted to reveal them. If I played for my school, I’d have to wear shorts for the uniform. It was a tough pill to swallow. I watched kids who I knew I was better then receive popularity at the school that I knew could have been mine, if I hadn’t been so racked with insecurities about my situation. It was an awful feeling. I had been blessed with tremendous athletic gifts, even with my birth defect, but could never capitalize on them because of my insecurities.
I think the toughest thing to me was I had nobody I could identify with. I never knew anyone with a club foot besides myself. I’ve never seen anyone in my life who had 1 calf muscle bigger then the other. Children get teased for different things. An overweight child may get teased for their appearance, but they can still look around and notice other overweight children. A child who is teased for their height can still look around and see others who were small. I was teased for a situation with my appearance that I never observed in anyone else, ever. That’s a very lonely feeling, and can cause you to really isolate yourself from everyone else at times. There’s no one you can identify with on this.
I had never spoken about my foot to anyone in my life. For most of my life I’ve just acted as if its never happened. A lot of the feelings I described above were repressed for most of my life, and have manifested itself in many other ways that I’m finally now looking to change today. I’ve only recently started to acknowledge the situation and have dealt with all those feelings. This can be a very lonely situation to go through. My advice to all parents of children going through this, and people who are actually going through this themselves, confront your feelings on this, or it will only lay in the woods and wreck you inside.