In 2005, Brenda Moloi emailed Karen Mara Moss with a query about her 4-month-old baby, who was born with clubfoot. With that email, Tumiso became one of the first babies in South Africa to receive the Ponseti treatment for clubfoot.
STEPS was but a baby then too. Now, we are both celebrating our 18th birthday and Tumi’s journey of hope, which is thanks to the introduction of the Ponseti Method all those years ago.
The story in Brenda’s words:
My baby was born with clubfoot. It was something completely new for our family. We knew nothing about it or what causes it.
After I gave birth in 2005, they told me that he was going to have casts. I was so stressed. They told me that he is going to attend the clubfoot clinic every Wednesday for the change of casts.
You won’t believe what happened. We took him for about 5 months with no change. When I got back to work after my maternity leave, I looked for help on the internet and I found help from this amazing woman Karen Moss who changed my life.
I phoned her. Karen told me that the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Paediatric Orthopaedic ward could help me but that I would need to get a referral letter. When I asked for this letter, I was told to wait for another 10 months to see how my baby’s feet reacted to the casting and to ‘be patient’.
Karen was concerned that it was far more difficult to treat a baby that was over a year old with the Ponseti method. She arranged with a doctor in private practice who she was working closely with that he would treat Tumiso at a reduced rate, covering only his material costs.
When I took my son Tumiso to see him, he was so surprised that he had gone through 20 casts and there was no change in his feet.
Do you know why he was surprised? It’s because they were not using the Ponseti method in that hospital.
When I took Tumi to Dr Mark, he only had 6 casts and then a small operation on his right foot and his feet were good. Karen arranged for one of the donated foot braces.
The way I feel about Ponseti is simple. Tell others about it.
How is Tumi now?
“After getting my clubfoot treated I was involved in sport which was karate. I think participating in this sport truly showed me how well my leg has recovered because we know karate is a contact sport which requires you to have the physical strength in both your legs. At first, it wasn’t easy, but as time went on I started enjoying karate and I won a few medals and trophies from tournaments. So that really showed me how well the leg was treated and how good the recovery had been.”
What I can say to parents of toddlers having clubfoot treatment is that they should have hope and never give up in trying to treat the clubfoot. It may not be an easy journey, but it’s a journey worth undergoing as nothing worthwhile comes easy. I think parents should let the toddler be themselves and not let them think they are different from others which is what my mom did for me. She didn’t really reveal to me much about my condition and I thought I was pretty much the same as others.
There will be challenges along the way, but what’s important is to focus on recovering well. Last year I had an accident where I had a gate fall on me. I thought maybe I had broken my leg and triggered the clubfoot again somehow, but luckily I didn’t damage the leg and everything was fine.
My dream job has always been to become a physiotherapist, so I’ve been applying to various universities for physiotherapy. I just hope I get accepted and get a bursary which will help me pay for fees. That’s my plan after matric. That’s my wish, to help others. It’s what I value the most in life.
We are so proud of Tumi who was one of the first clubfoot warriors in the early days of STEPS. His story is similar to the thousands of other children who have had successful treatment with the Ponseti Method.
We celebrate Tumi’s journey and Brenda’s determination to find the best treatment for her son. We are so grateful to all the wonderful doctors and donors who have made it possible for Tumi and other children to have active lives free from disability, and to dream big for their future.