Kei Ngwatyu’s Clubfoot Story

Kei Ngwatyu lives with his mother Neliswa in rural Eastern Cape on the Wild Coast, South Africa. Petra Pol, an occupational therapist based at Canzibe hospital, and her colleague Astrid who also works at the hospital, have been treating Kei since he was three months old. Kei is now almost 18 months old.

Neliswa says, “When I gave birth to my baby, they told me that one of the feet was different, that my baby’s feet were not the same. They said it would be okay and that I would get transferred to the hospital where they would correct my baby’s foot. It was the very first time I have ever seen anything like this. I never thought that the doctors were telling the truth when they said it could be fixed. I thought my child’s foot would be like this for the rest of his life.”

“They gave me a date to come back when the baby was four weeks old,” Neliswa says. “But then we went into level 5 lockdown. So Petra and Astrid came to our house to cast my son. I am very happy, as the longer my son went without his clubfoot being treated the more difficult it would be to correct.

Petra says, “We decided to do home visits to cast Kei due to COVID-19. Kei was born with unilateral clubfoot, and we applied a total of five casts weekly to correct his foot position.”

“Every week they came to my house to put another cast on my son,” says Neliswa. “I would take the cast off in the morning on the day they came. They would check the foot and then cast again. It was not sore or painful for my baby. Every Friday when I took the cast off, I could not believe the difference in my baby’s foot. It was getting better each week. Then we travelled to Zithulele Hospital to get a tenotomy, which was a small cut at the back of my sons’ foot. It was a very quick procedure. After that my son kept his cast on for three weeks, then he went into a clubfoot brace for 23 hours a day, for 3 months. Now he just wears the brace at night when he sleeps.”

Steps stayed in touch with Petra during Kei’s treatment and sent clubfoot braces for Kei in several sizes so he could start and continue the maintenance phase of the Ponseti treatment after his tenotomy. 

“I know one person in my community that I am sure has clubfoot. Now that I have experienced clubfoot with my son, I think that girl had and has clubfoot but it went untreated. Now she is a teenager. She cannot walk properly and she walks on the sides of her feet. It is sad.”

– Neliswa

Many people, friends and family said to me it is the first time they have seen clubfoot. Even before my son was born with it I didn’t know about it. Most people were so shocked.

I never knew that it would be treated, I really thought my son would have to live with the disability all his life. Now his feet look and are very normal. He is walking perfectly, we are very happy.

My advice to any family that has a child with clubfoot is to go and get treatment for your child. It is not painful and clubfoot is treatable. Just look at my son.”