Clubfoot treatment has changed dramatically over the years. Both Tyler Karl, now age 6, and his father, Steve, were born with bilateral club feet. “We knew instantly when Tyler was born. I was discouraged. I didn’t want my son to go through what I had in order to fix my club feet,” Steve said. Although the issue was the same, the treatment was far from similar. Steve had six surgeries; Tyler had a small procedure to release his heel cord to provide better flexibility. Tyler’s treatment was complete by the time he was 4 years old; Steve was still having surgeries at age 10. Tyler remembers only fun times of physical therapy; Steve was teased and felt embarrassed using a wheelchair and wearing braces. Tyler was referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children® — Spokane at birth. There, an orthopaedic surgeon evaluated Tyler and offered parents Shelbie and Steve hope, a plan and answers.
To gradually bring the feet into correct alignment, Glen Baird, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon, recommended treating Tyler’s club feet with the Ponseti Method, a weekly gentle manipulation of the muscles, ligaments and bones in the feet, and then casting the feet to retain the degree of correction obtained. “Dr. Baird is amazing. He was so enthusiastic about how he could help Tyler. It immediately alleviated our concerns,” Steve said. Tyler had his first cast when just 3 days old and then came back weekly for eight treatments. Shelbie and Steve felt fortunate to have this expertise in their own community. Dr. Baird is one of a select group of Ponseti Method–preferred providers in the U.S. He had one-on-one training with the late Ignacio Ponseti, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in clubfoot treatment from the University of Iowa, who developed this nonoperative method. “This method for clubfoot treatment is very effective when used properly by a trained health care provider,” said Dr. Baird Tyler went from wearing a brace full-time to wearing splints at night, coupled with home exercises and physical therapy at the hospital. “They told us Tyler would be wearing the splints and getting physical therapy until he was 5,” said Shelbie. “At his 4-year checkup, Dr. Baird said Tyler was done with the process.”
Tyler is active in soccer and baseball and loves to run. “We are grateful to Shriners Hospitals and especially Dr. Baird,” said Steve. “We couldn’t have hoped for a better outcome.”