By Sarah Ernst
Within hours of becoming a first-time mother to our newborn son Braden, I quickly discovered the power of the “mom network.” A friend-of-a-friend called me the day Braden was born and had heard that Braden was born with bilateral club feet. She, too, was the mother of a club foot baby, and her first piece of advice was, “You need to find a doctor who is trained in the Ponseti Method, and the University of Iowa is where to go.” I am still grateful to this day for the download of club foot information she gave me as we were feeling overwhelmed in making the right medical decisions for our son.
Six days later, we brought Braden to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where he received his first club foot treatment. As timing had it, Braden was actually a live example for a Club Foot Conference going on at the University where Dr. Frederick Dietz and Dr. Ignacio Ponseti demonstrated Braden’s initial casting of a club foot patient to doctors from around the world.
Braden was fortunate to only need three castings before his Achilles tenotomy and final casting when he was four weeks old. The final transition to the full-time brace seemed easy for Braden since he no longer had the heavy casts to lift, and making it a daily, and later, a nightly ritual was just part of putting his pajamas on. To this day, we joke that Braden had abs of steel when he wore that brace. He’d have his feet (in the brace) high up in the air when he woke up in the morning and loved to bang it on his crib mattress to tell us he was awake!
Braden never saw life differently than any other growing boy. He loved to run, play baseball, and shoot hoops with friends. When Braden was in middle school, he enjoyed much success running in cross country and long distance in track. He was even honored to win his age group in the 2014 Ponseti Races 5K where he wore his “Club Foot Kid” button with pride. Nowadays, you’ll find Braden still practicing baseball in the backyard and playing with his high school team. Periodically, he has dealt with foot fatigue due to reduced flexibility, but short periods of therapy and orthotics keep him active and involved in sports.
Looking back, we recognize how fortunate we are to live so closely to the University of Iowa and to have been directed to the best, most natural, form of treatment for club feet. The Ponseti Method has definitely made Braden’s life feel normal as he’s continued to grow into an adult, and for motherly advice, we are so thankful!