From clubfoot to miracle feet: NGO network offers free rehabilitation
BAGUIO, Philippines – Rihanna Basiwag was born 4 months ago in Ucab, Itogon, the scene of the horrible landslides in October 2018 which killed a hundred residents.
But Rihanna had a minor miracle after she was diagnosed with unilateral clubfoot. According to Dr Rodel Banggiacan, this type of clubfoot, where only one foot is set inward, was less common. Her being born at the Benguet General Hospital (BeGH) was fortuitous as she was immediately enrolled in a new program that set to treat her condition for free.
For the past two months, 20-year-old Diana had been bringing her daughter Rihanna for rehabilitation. Rihanna’s foot had been set in a cast every week and, after that, it would be set in a special brace. The rehabilitation would take up to 5 years, but, at least, Rihanna would be taking the right steps.
The Miracle Feet Project was launched in the Philippines in 2018, with the Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare as the lead agency. According to Eden Divinagracia, the executive director of PNGOC, they are already treating 100 clubfoot patients from as young as two days old to 18 years.
Clubfoot, a birth defect which causes one or both feet to turn inwards or outwards, is not that rare. It reportedly affects one in every 800 children worldwide. Mia Hamm, Troy Aikman, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Steven Gerrard were all born with clubfoot and went on to become great athletes. But they were born in a country that could easily treat clubfoot with ease and for free.
In countries like the Philippines, those with clubfoot are often discriminated and neglected. Some stopped going to school and see themselves as a burden to society. Dr. Jean Pierre Leung, the orthopedic surgeon at BeGH Clubfoot Program, had been treating clubfoot patients for years and he said that the whole rehabilitation can cost P100,000 through the years.
Divinagracia said that through the Ponseti method, a non-surgical procedure, they can fully correct the feet in 95% of cases – the younger, the better. And the best thing is that everything is free. She said that with partnership with Google, Clarks Shoes, Global Clubfoot Initiative, Stanford and Oak Foundation, the worldwide coalition plans to fulfill “RunFree2030: Ending Clubfoot Disability.”
After two more castings, Rihanna would be wearing a special brace developed by MiracleFeet that would correct her disability. Last weekend, PNGOC and Dr Leung started training resident doctors in Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions about the Ponseti method. According to Divinagracia, they have covered 16 regions in the country and already have 22 hospitals in their wings. “When we started, we only had four hospitals,” she said. – Rappler.com