Clubfoot – A Story of Hope

On January 27, NPR ran a short piece on a new treatment for clubfoot.  Here’s a quote from the transcript:

“Just a decade ago, up to 90 percent of babies…were treated with surgery that usually had to be repeated several times. That created a buildup of scar tissue that often left patients with a lifetime of chronic pain, stiffness, arthritis and medical bills. But with the help of a simple, noninvasive solution and an Internet campaign led by parents, the course of treatment and likely outcomes have changed completely.”

 Clubfoot, in which the baby’s feet are turned completely inward, is a common birth defect, with an incidence of about 1 per 1000 babies.  Surgical correction involves virtually dismantling the deformed foot and reassembling it in the normal orientation.

Today doctors gently straighten the foot using manipulation and a series of casts, and also apply a metal brace to keep the feet flexed outward while the child is asleep.

This new method of treating clubfoot was developed by Ignacio Ponseti, MD, at the University of Iowa in the 50’s.  The method is usually painless, non-invasive (except for a small incision in the Achilles tendon), and almost always completely successful.  There’s no residual disability, and usually no need for follow-up surgery.

But – amazingly – Dr. Ponseti’s method didn’t catch on outside Iowa until relatively recently.  Elsewhere, surgeons went on for another 50 years or so rebuilding these babies’ feet the painful, old-fashioned way.  Throughout these decades Dr. Ponseti tried hard to spread the word, but without much success.

But about ten years ago, parents of children who had been helped by Dr. Ponseti’s method began to use the Internet to publicize and promote the procedure.  Today 97% of children born with this deformity in the US are treated successfully with Dr. Ponseti’s method.  It is also being used extensively abroad.

So, dear reader, if you find yourself losing heart, if you’re beginning to feel that “…the struggle naught availeth…” remember Dr. Ponseti and his fifty year battle against a deeply entrenched status quo.

There are two factors that will ultimately succeed in exposing psychiatry for the destructive fraud that it is has become. Firstly, the survivor movement, which is increasingly finding its voice; and secondly, the Internet – the biggest bullhorn ever invented!

For the record, I’m not equating surgeons who address real illness and real pathology with psychiatrists, who prescribe dangerous drugs for “illnesses” of their own invention.  The story is analogical, and the similarity can only be taken so far.

The message is:  Don’t Lose Heart.

PS:  Dr. Ponseti continued to practice into his nineties.  He lived long enough to see his ideas become widely accepted, and died in 2009 at the age of 95.  You can read more on the Ponseti technique on Wikipedia and in an American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons article Ponseti method revolutionized clubfoot care by Jennie McKee.



  • Francesca Allan

    Certainly an inspirational story. Thanks, Phil.

  • Cledwyn “Spasmic cadavera”

    Nah, give me despair over hope’s inane trumpery any day.

    The pleasures we purchase in the present with hope’s currency leaves us with a debt that must be repaid in great suffering and disappointment.

    And given the disproportion between hope’s paltry pleasures and the debt in suffering they accrue, it’s a bad bargain to boot.

    The much wiser course of action is to wage war on hope altogether, for it rarely makes good on its promises, and even when it does, when it promises a pleasure, the oceans of semen we expect to gush forth upon its realization never comes, for the disproportion between a pleasure anticipated and a pleasure fulfilled is so immeasurably great, that the latter languishes in its contrast with the former, and quickly resolves into disappointment and despair; and when it promises some profound change in our environment, in the world, even if the change comes about, in a universe such as ours it is nevertheless, for the most part, foreordained only to make things worse, such is the irony of fate, dispensation from whose laws being rare and granted only momentarily, for such is the constitution of the universe, everything is fated to rot, to partake of the universal decay stemming from the canker at the core of all Creation.

    You can’t stop the rot, can’t stop the rot, you can’t…..

    (To understand the sovereignty of evil in our world, just look at how much more contagious it is than goodness, look at how much more readily men requite an evil than a good! True, men have little trouble reciprocating small favors, but look how much more evil acts as a stimulus for its requital, yet look also at the truth of the epigram, “no good deed goes unpunished”, which expresses the general principle that men are not inclined not just to return acts of munificence and great kindness, but that it usually only excites their malice and ill-will.)

    Nevertheless, life presupposes a small measure of hope, though in some men, it dies all together, and only its cadaveric spasms remain, and stop us expiring all together from sheer hopelessness, which everywhere life corroborates.