Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bracing for Clubfeet

Nothing so far prepares you for The Bar.  And sadly we’re not talking about the one that serves alcohol.

At some point your child will be given shoes and a leg bar.  The most common type of bar is called the Mitchell bar.  It’s essentially one metal rod that connects the two feet together.  It’s important because it keeps the feet situated and secure. 

Yet at the same time, it’s the most terrible thing you will experience.  Why?  Because your baby, even with the weight of the casts, likes to kick his legs independently of one another.  Our son calms himself by kicking his legs.  When we attached a heavy bar between them, he was not only unable to move his feet independently, he was unable to move them at all.

Now some babies respond well to this.  We’ve been told that some kids even like wearing their shoes.  For Eli, he despised every minute of it.  In fact, he actually stopped eating for the first 2 days we had his brace on.  He lost about a pound of body weight. 

What I wished we had been told is just how hard it is as a parent to adjust to the bar.  Especially when your kid is nearly inconsolable.

So here’s some tips to get you through this if you’re experience is like ours:

1.  Stay Calm.  Trust me, I know how hard this is.  I’m telling you this with only sleeping 20 hours in 5 days.  But your baby knows when you’re upset, and it doesn’t help him any to get worked up.

2.  Check his feet.  We found that our shoes weren’t sitting right on his feet.  And while the brace shop didn’t want to hear our complaints, we forced them to listen, and got it resolved.  Hopefully you’ll work with a more cooperative / understanding brace shop, but make sure his feet are fitting properly in his shoes.  (Sadly you really won’t know what “properly” is until you’ve tried to put his shoes on a few times at home.)

3.  Be an Advocate.  We may have over-reacted at times to Eli’s response to his shoes.  But you know what?  It’s better to over-react than not react.  We’ll gladly look like fools if it means Eli’s being protected! 

4.  It does get better.  I hate it when people tell me this, because it’s not what you want to hear.  But it does get better. 

5.  Trust your instincts.  If everything seems wrong, maybe it is.  Go be an advocate and call the doctor.  Force them to see your baby.  No one can diagnose over a phone, so trust your instincts.

The good news (for us) is that we switched out of the Mitchell Bar into the Dobbs brace, and that made a world of difference.  But all of these things were still important for Eli as we've still had complications with his braces.  

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