On November 16, 2001, an angel was born. Nathaniel James Crossley entered the world at 5:17am, 7 lbs 2 oz, with ten fingers and ten toes but something was different. All we were told at first was his foot was turned in, but we were in too much of a daze to ask any further questions. Nathaniel was referred to a local pediatrician who then referred him to Dr. McIvor in Edmonton, an orthopedic surgeon whose special interest is pediatrics.
Nathaniel was 6 days old the first time we made the 5 hour drive to Edmonton. Blake and I were under the impression that they would splint his foot, we would go home and that was it. Weren’t we in for a rude awakening! After seeing the doctor Nathaniel got his first cast and we were informed that Nathaniel would require a new cast every 7 – 10 days for 6 – 8 cast, then he would be splinted and then boots and a bar. We were in it for the long haul. The first cast wasn’t even on for 4 days and his toes began to swell. On day 5 I called the doctor and he advised me to take the cast off. In total Nathaniel had only 5 casts and only one stayed on the entire time from check-up to check-up. Nathaniel had the tendon lengthening done on the day of his 5th cast that only stayed on for 5 days. His poor little toes always swelled up like balloons and risked cutting off circulation. During one 10 day period Nathaniel and I went to Edmonton 3 times! During the time span from his first cast to the last, Nathaniel went from 6 lbs 4 oz to 11 lbs 6 oz, so it is no surprise that he always outgrew the cast.
In January Nathaniel was started on a splint. He wore a splint made by an occupational therapist for 2 months and was then introduced to straight last shoes and a Zimmer night brace. Nathaniel HATED it. The first night with it on Nathaniel realized he could roll over, because he kicked and fought it so much that he flipped himself right over. I spent 3 weeks of sleepless nights staying up as late as I could hold Nathaniel so he wouldn’t fight the brace. It was then we realized that the brace was too small. After getting the proper fit Nathaniel gradually accepted the brace and began sleeping with it on. In total we made 13 trips to Edmonton in 3 months. Just shy of 2 years old, Nathaniel stopped wearing the night brace and even the doctor had trouble telling which foot was which.
In the spring of 2006 we began to notice that Nathaniel’s foot was regressing and took him to see an orthopedic surgeon from Edmonton. He took the “wait and see” attitude so we took Nathaniel for a second opinion. Dr. Elaine Joughin of Calgary’s Children’s hospital came highly recommended and was willing to see Nathaniel on short notice while we were in Calgary on vacation.
After examining Nathaniel’s foot and looking at his x-rays she was fairly confident that she could attain a lot of correction with serial casting, botox and possibly another tendon lengthening. Both Blake and I felt very included in the decision process and our opinions valued. So on August 16th we started traveling to Calgary every 2 weeks for casting. We travel down and back in the same day on West Jet and take the Airporter shuttle to and from the airport.
To date Nathaniel has had 6 casts and his tendon lengthening surgery is on November 16th, his 5th birthday. The progress that has been made is amazing. Even Dr. Joughin has been pleasantly surprised with the correction. After Nathaniel’s surgery we will go back for a 2 weeks post-op check up, have him fitted for a splint and a new cast applied. Then 2 weeks later we will go back and have the last cast removed and the splint put on. Every trip to Calgary Nathaniel asks the same question, “How many more casts Mom?” By Christmas the casting will be done and that will be Nathaniel’s best gift.
Nathaniel hasn’t been slowed down by the casts, he is still able to run around and play inside. But it will be nice for him to be able to go swimming, skating and play in the snow.
When Nathaniel was born, Handicapped Children’s Services would fund families to help with travel expenses. Since then, with restructuring, clubfoot no longer qualifies for assistance under Alberta Children’s Services. We are left to cover all expenses and your support was very unexpected and greatly appreciated! Now we can focus on our son’s treatment without the worry of how to pay for it.