Khatija’s baby, Ziauddin, was two days old when she found out that he had clubfoot in his left foot.
“I was absolutely devastated,” she says. “While the doctor was informing me about the process of clubfoot treatment, I was hearing her but not actually listening. I remember the words ‘casting’, ‘operation’, ‘special shoes for five years’. When she left I cried my heart out. I felt it was my fault and kept thinking, ‘What did I do wrong in my pregnancy for my baby to be like this?’”
Khatija found out about Steps through her orthopaedic surgeon, who wrote it down for her, and suggested she google it.
“Being a first-time mom and too devastated, I couldn’t process the news of my baby having this condition, my sister researched Steps on my behalf. When I was settled at home from hospital then she explained to me exactly what the process of the treatment was all about.”
Khatija then browsed the Steps website herself, gathering all the information she needed about the Ponseti treatment.
Khatija’s says that her husband, Mohamed, and her family were very supportive, especially when she had some doubts about the treatment mentioned by the doctor during the casting phase.
“I never questioned it, because I thought this doctor is an expert.” Unfortunately, two days before the tenotomy Ziauddin was hospitalised due to intense reflux. “After we got home from hospital I told my husband my gut feel was that we should go for a second opinion before doing the tenotomy. Luckily we did, because it turned out that Ziauddin’s foot was not yet in the correct position, and we had to redo casting. We were really relieved that this was picked up in time. We are now seeing great results, and are currently in the part-time boots and bar phase.
Khatija’s advice to other families going through similar journeys is to research all you can during pregnancy if you find out you are going to have a clubfoot baby.
“I would have loved to know about it earlier,” she says. “It would’ve been easier for me to prepare and research. Clubfoot is not your fault.”
She adds: “Go to an experienced doctor. Ask the necessary questions, like how many patients have they treated, and was treatment successful. Find out from your medical aid if they will pay for the treatment. Otherwise go to a recommended government institution specialising in clubfoot treatment.
“It is an emotional but special journey. You need the support of family and friends. Whoever tells you: ‘At least it’s not some other disease,’ – they are not supporting you.
“The journey does get easier, you have to hang in there, don’t give up and don’t miss appointments.
“Some people are going to stare and pass judgement that you broke your little one’s legs. Yes they are, you just have to embrace and educate people, it is the only way. Don’t let other people compare your child to theirs. Every child is unique and they reach their milestones like rolling and sitting, in their own time when their little bodies are ready.
“Join a support group like the Steps Facebook group, it makes the journey easier knowing that you are not alone. Also, you learn a lot from other parents.”
“Take lots and lots of pictures and videos. It will make a great gift for your little one and the memories are epic.”
It was because Khatija was overwhelmed by clubfoot in the early days, changing doctors, and not knowing anyone else with a clubfoot baby, that she felt compelled to get involved with Steps.
“I felt, if this is what I am going through and finding it difficult at times, I’m sure other families are going through the same feelings. I felt the urge to assist in a small way, to make a difference in a clubfoot child’s journey and to educate people,” she says.
Khatija sells a clubfoot-inspired items, including cute ribbons with feet printed on them (available in blue and pink), mugs, and T-shirts – the proceeds of which all go to Steps to support other families. She also sells Laces for Braces on behalf of Steps.
Khatija created a WhatsApp group for clubfoot moms to support each other, because she believes that support is vital.
She is also a clubfoot champion in her daily life. “As I go through my daily tasks, I educate people that clubfoot exists. I firmly believe that ‘your feet are your foundation”, therefore why not assist a baby to correct their feet now so that they can walk properly for life?
“It gives me great satisfaction that my contribution is making a difference to a child’s life, and that it brings a substantial amount of happiness to the parents too.”
To other parents she says: “Getting involved is one of the best things you could do, whether you have a clubfoot child or not. It is about giving someone the ability to walk, run, hop, skip and jump.”
Khatija’s story is one of how to turn adversity and worry into a positive experience of hope for others. Her son’s journey is testament to her dedication and the power of a mother’s love.
Contact Steps to find out how you can get involved in improving the lives of children born with clubfoot.