Wednesday, December 05, 2018
by Patty Johnson • email@example.com
SLCH | Lots of little feet were happily running, jumping and hopping at this year’s “Happy Feet” celebration for St. Louis Children’s Hospital patients — and there were other little feet that soon will join in the fun, too.
The annual event brings together the families of patients treated for foot disorders by Washington University orthopedic surgeon Matthew Dobbs, MD, in the Center for Foot Disorders at SLCH. This was the sixth anniversary of the event.
“Social media has virtually introduced many of these families to each other, but Happy Feet affords them the opportunity to meet each other in person,” says Dr. Dobbs. “The families have come to expect it, and it’s a great opportunity for them to gather support from one another.”
About 250 family members enjoyed breakfast and participated in a variety of games and entertainment. In addition to a visit from superhero Captain America, activities included a magician; Shriners YOMO cars for kids to climb in and have their picture taken; a petting zoo, snow cones and popcorn from Santa Needs Help; games presented by the Ladies of the Shrine; a button-making booth from SLCH community education; a toy for every child from Santa’s Helper; goodie bags with coupons donated by Laurie Shoes; and Happy Feet T-shirts and onesies for each patient, courtesy of D-Bar Enterprises, which also provided the event’s food.
Dr. Dobbs and his team organize and staff the event each year, along with volunteers from the various organizations that participate.
The former and current patients in attendance ranged in age from newborns to teenagers, and most have been treated for congenital foot deformities such as clubfoot or vertical talus. (See more about clubfoot and vertical talus below.) Some families attend every year.
“Clubfoot treatment is a process, and families enjoy visiting with others going through the same journey,” Dr. Dobbs says. “We started this as a way to get families together to share their experiences. The response has been fabulous and it’s the feedback from parents that drives me to do this each year. It is incredibly rewarding to see both patients and families have the chance to bond and share.”
‘It’s going to be alright’
When Mattie Jones was born, her parents, Cortney and Scotty, found out their daughter had clubfoot in both feet. They got Mattie into treatment right away in their home state of Texas, but it wasn’t long before they traveled to SLCH to meet with Dr. Dobbs.
“My mama instincts kicked in,” Cortney Jones says. “I’m part of an online clubfoot group, and everyone talked so highly of Dr. Dobbs — so I Facebook-messaged him, and he messaged me back in about 10-15 minutes. We set up an appointment for three days later, and we hopped on a plane and flew to
The Jones family has made that trip 10 times in the 21 months of Mattie’s life — whether flying or driving — and they wouldn’t have it any other way. After starting over with treatment at SLCH, Mattie has made remarkable progress, Cortney says.
Although she was slightly delayed in crawling and walking, Mattie, now 21 months old, started walking at 16 months. “There’s no stopping her now,” her mom says. “She runs everywhere. She can keep up with her brothers.
“We’re so proud of her. The miles of flying and driving are worth everything,” Cortney adds. “It’s been such a blessing.”
Mattie and her entire family, including her brothers, Ethan, 6, and Liam, 5, attended the Happy Feet celebration for the second time. Cortney says they all had a good time, and the kids especially enjoyed the magic show.
For Cortney, the event had bittersweet moments, too. “When I see a brand-new baby in a cast, I have to walk over to the mom and say, ‘It’s going to be alright. It’s difficult now, but it will be OK. Having hope is so important, and it’s nice to have other people you can lean on.”
‘She could see that she’s not the only one’
Lanette Woods knows exactly how Cortney Jones feels. She and her husband, Wesley, have three children, and the youngest, Kinsley, was born with clubfoot. The Woods family, including Kinsley’s older sister, Keegan, 7, and older brother, Troy, 6, attended Happy Feet this year. It was their second time at the celebration.
“We love it,” Lanette Woods says. “It’s so nice to get together with other families who understand what you’re going through. At our first Happy Feet event, I was brand new to clubfoot, but I got to meet other moms who reassured me. I kept in contact with them, and I saw their kids running and doing well.
“This year, as a veteran mom, I was asked to help another mom,” Lanette says. “Hosting Happy Feet is such a nice thing that Dr. Dobbs does. He cares enough to bring us all together.”
Kinsley was born in November 2015 in Florida. After repeat medical visits in the first few weeks of Kinsley’s life, Lanette says she was “getting the feeling something wasn’t right.” She started Googling clubfoot and joined the Clubfoot Moms Facebook group — which led her to Dr. Dobbs and the team at SLCH.
“Within one and a half hours of joining the Facebook group, we had talked to Dr. Dobbs, had talked to his office staff and they had scheduled all of our appointments,” Lanette says. “We’re so thankful. Kinsley is now doing great. She’s fully corrected and now wears boots and bars to keep from relapsing.
“And she absolutely loves Dr. Dobbs. He has the sweetest demeanor, and I’m amazed at how down-to-earth he is,” Lanette adds. “In fact, Kinsley’s older sister, Keegan, says she wants to be a clubfoot doctor, like Dr. Dobbs.”
During Kinsley’s treatment, the Woods family moved from Florida to Tennessee, so traveling to the Happy Feet celebration was even easier this year. The family had a wonderful time, Lanette says. And, best of all, Kinsley saw other kids just like her. “Kinsley loved seeing the other kids in boots and bars,” Lanette says. “She could see that she’s not the only one.”
More about clubfoot and vertical talus
Clubfoot is a congenital (present at birth) foot deformity. It affects the bones, muscles, tendons and blood vessels and can affect one or both feet. The foot is usually short and broad, the heel points downward while the forefoot turns inward, and the muscles in the calf are smaller compared to a normal lower leg. Clubfoot occurs in about one to three of every 1,000 births, with boys slightly outnumbering girls.
Vertical talus is a congenital foot disorder in which the foot turns outward, creating a rigid flat foot. Left untreated, a child with vertical talus begins walking on the inside of the foot, which leads to the formation of painful calluses, skin breakdown and foot pain, and affects a child’s gait and ability to wear properly fitting shoes.
Treatment for the disorders is determined by the doctor based on several factors, such as the child’s age and the extent of the condition. The goal is to straighten the foot so that it can grow and develop normally.
The first type of treatment is typically nonsurgical, but surgical treatment may be required if nonsurgical treatment fails to correct the deformity or when the deformity recurs and doesn’t respond to nonsurgical treatment.
The orthopedic specialists at The Center for Foot Disorders at St. Louis Children’s Hospital determine the best course of treatment based on each child’s needs and collaborate with other specialists in the hospital to provide the best comprehensive care to each child.
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12/6/2018 10:46 AM
Dr. Dobbs is truly an amazing human being! My son was born with bilateral clubfeet and was initially treated elsewhere with consistent relapses. Once we met Dr. Dobbs, I knew that everything would be ok. I had read the success stories, seen the happy kiddos in the office. My son is now a happy, healthy, soccer playing 12 year old and we owe it all to Dr. Dobbs!!