Improving Children’s Lives One Step at a Time With Operation Footprint

Hundreds of children in Honduras born with clubfoot or other foot abnormalities have a renewed hope of walking, running, and playing with the help of a small group of volunteer podiatrists working with our partner, Operation Footprint.

The group annually travels to Hospital San Felipe in Tegucigalpa to perform surgeries and provide corrective manipulation treatments and returned from their most recent trip last week.

“Children with these deformities are often shunned by their community and we have seen the positive effects of removing the visible deformity and allowing them to wear shoes and walk and play with their friends without stigma,” said Stan Weinstein, a representative of Operation Footprint.

Clubfoot is a relatively common birth defect that typically causes very little problems until the child starts to stand and walk. Treatment soon after birth is generally recommended and is usually successful, resulting with the child having a relatively normal foot – both in the way it looks and functions, according to Mayo Clinic. Left untreated, the child is likely to develop arthritis, an awkward gait, and other painful conditions requiring major surgical intervention.

“There are well over 100,000 clubfoot deformities born each year throughout the world, but in countries like the U.S. they are recognized and treatment by casting is begun immediately…however, in countries without adequate health care, these conditions are neglected,” reported Weinstein.

Seeking to bridge this health care gap, the volunteer-run organization began in working in Mexico in 1977 as the Baja Project for Crippled Children.  Through a partnership with Rotary International, they became Operation Footprint and extended their project to Honduras in late 2001.

Shortly after, Direct Relief began supporting their work, providing basic medical and surgical supplies such as gauze, gloves, disinfectants and surgical masks they would otherwise have to purchase. Since expanding, the group has performed surgeries on more than 500 patients in Honduras.

In addition to treatment, the doctors also provide training to Honduran physicians and nurses in recognizing and treating clubfoot. Two local orthopedists remain at Hospital San Felipe to take care of the children after the group leaves. They also trained a orthotist on fabricating inexpensive braces for the children to wear following treatment.

Weinstein said the training has worked. Each year, his team continues to see an increase in the number of children receiving care and early intervention.

But what is most rewarding for Weinstein is seeing past patients grow up and lead a normal, healthy lifestyle. He said the kids over time are playing soccer, smiling enthusiastically and the parents are pleased with their child’s progress.

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