In every other way, Blessing was a normal eight-year-old boy who just wanted to run around and play with his friends but life was a struggle because of his clubfeet.
Pretoria, South Africa (30 May 2022) – The challenges brought about by being unable to walk properly for the first eight years of his life have not stopped a little boy from Middelburg from dreaming big. Now, with the help of some dedicated healthcare professionals, young Blessing Sithole, who hopes to become a pilot one day, is firmly on the road to recovery and to leading a normal life.
Born with congenital clubfoot, Blessing’s family were unable to obtain the medical assistance he required before now due to financial constraints. Dr Mart-Mari Visser, an orthopaedic surgeon practising at Netcare Pretoria East Hospital, says that Blessing had been walking entirely on the side of his feet, where a new walking pad had developed.
“Clubfoot is a common congenital foot deformity, which presents in one out of every 1 000 babies. With this condition, the shape of a newborn’s foot is similar to that of a golf club, meaning it is stuck in a position where the heel is facing inwards and backwards, while the arch of the foot is twisted with the toes facing backwards and towards the ankle.
“The cause is largely unknown. If addressed at birth, clubfoot can be treated easily with the Ponseti method, which avoids the need for invasive surgery.
“A person with the severity of Blessing’s condition should be wearing specially adjusted shoes, but his feet were unamenable to custom shoes. They were totally rigid and after conducting an examination it was clear that he needed reconstructive surgery, in the form of a posteromedial lateral release. This entails a complete release and readjustment of most of the skin, joints, ligaments and muscles of the foot,” she explains.
Dr Visser says that after undergoing several hours of surgery, Blessing will now need to go through six weeks of cast treatment, followed by the use of splints after his casts are removed.
Thereafter he will start with intensive rehabilitation, including gait training, which he will undergo at a facility closer to his home in Mpumalanga.
“It is early days in the recovery process, however the current results are good and he will at the very least have fully functional feet, which will make a considerable difference to his daily life. He is a very brave little boy and we are looking forward to hearing how he progresses,” says Dr Visser.
According to Pieter Louw, general manager at Netcare Pretoria East Hospital, Blessing’s case was brought to the hospital’s attention by Dr Visser, who has a special interest in foot and ankle surgery, particularly in paediatric patients.
“Blessing’s family have limited medical cover and financial constraints meant that additional assistance was required to make this highly specialised operation possible. We are fortunate enough to work with such passionate and dedicated specialists as Dr Visser, who had offered her time and expertise free of charge to help this young boy, after he was referred to her from a facility in Middelburg. We were only too glad to play our part in making this life changing procedure a reality, alongside a contribution from the Netcare Foundation, by writing off the shortfall on the hospital fees,” he notes.
Blessing’s father, George Mtshweni, says that it has come as a huge relief that Blessing has now finally had the treatment he so badly needed all these years.
“In every other way, Blessing was a normal eight year old boy who just wanted to run around and play with his friends but life was a struggle because of his clubfeet.
“Now thanks to the work of Dr Visser and the team here at Netcare Pretoria East Hospital, my son has a better chance of a fulfilling life, and I am very grateful for that. I hope that one day he too could become a doctor or a physiotherapist and help others like he has been helped,” he says.
Louw concluded by thanking Dr Visser, the Netcare Foundation and the staff at Netcare Pretoria East Hospital.
“It is heart warming to see the compassion and care that they demonstrated by making a difference in this child’s life. We wish Blessing all the best for what promises to be a bright future.”