'This condition isn't rare, let's take the fear and confusion out of it'

This is a story of one family’s extraordinary journey when their child was diagnosed with clubfoot. Little Leroy’s recipe for living life to the fullest is all about attitude, with a generous sprinkling of courage, and a dash of cheekiness and fun… His mum Lauren shares his story.

At our baby’s 20-week scan, our ultrasound technician pointed out our son’s beautiful face and said he had a strong heartbeat. But then she began to gently explain that our baby had right foot congenital talipes equinovarus, or clubfoot, which means the foot turns inwards.

I was feeling very overwhelmed, I had so many questions….would my baby be able to walk and run, would he have any additional needs? We had wonderful support from our obstetrician Dr Sophie Leong, who was by our side for my first pregnancy. She explained that it was very treatable. But I didn’t mention Leroy’s clubfoot to anyone. Maybe because I hadn’t told anyone, I could pretend it wasn’t real?

Leroy was born in 2012, a little brother to his big brother Jack, born 15 months earlier. The moment Jack raced at breakneck speed into the room to meet his brother, was a priceless and special moment we will never forget.

Heidi Klum (mom of four: Leni, Henry, Johan and Lou (above)): “I’m not someone who [lives] like, ‘OK, this is a museum and you can’t sit here and you can’t touch this and everything has to be put in its place - [the kids] live here as much as we do. You come into our house and a giant elephant and lion are welcoming you. We have toys and things everywhere.”

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Leroy's feet before treatment. Picture: supplied.

And so, the treatment began

When Leroy was five days old, a manipulation technique and serial casts called Ponseti, was used to stretch his foot into the correct position. Then, he had weekly cast changes for seven weeks, and tenotomy surgery, where a small incision is made to release a tight Achilles tendon. At 10 weeks old, Leroy was placed into his boots and bar, special shoes attached to an adjustable metal bar keeping his foot and ankle in the correct position. He wore them 23 hours a day for three months – then at night until he was five. After that, we thought he’d be hanging up his boots and bar for good, and that would be it.

But that wasn’t the case

We noticed six months later, his foot was relapsing, it was turning back in, and causing him pain, despite the fact that he’d never missed a night of his boots and bar treatment.

He’s now almost seven and it’s been hard for him of late, because his little muscles get fatigued. His wheelchair is in the car if he needs it – rewind six years ago and that would be a scary thing for me to say. His experience isn’t the majority, but unfortunately, it’s where we are – it’s our journey, and everyone’s story with clubfoot is different.

Teach kids this bravery trick. Tell them to always notice the color of a person's eyes. Making eye contact will help a hesitant child appear more confident and will help any kid to be more assertive and less likely to be picked on.

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The two brothers meeting or the first time in hospital. Picture: supplied.

Six weeks ago, he had more surgery

He had another tenotomy and a procedure to lengthen the calf tendon, and he now wears an ankle foot orthotic (AFO) hinged brace, which gives him mobility and keeps the foot in the correct position.

He’s small and his growth spurts are very rapid and massive, that may be what’s caused the relapses. He’s grown 10 centimetres in a year, then nothing, perhaps causing the muscles and tendons to freak out because it’s all happened so suddenly. We really don’t know why, but what we do know is whatever happens, Leroy takes it in his stride.

Leroy, 2, playing soccer in Knoxfield. Leroy, 2, has clubfoot and his mother, Lauren, was encouraged by the Royal Children's Hospital to write children's picture book. Profits will go to charity Aussie Clubfoot Kids. Photo: Josie Hayden

Nothing slows him down. Picture: supplied.

Leroy’s had plenty of hurdles to overcome

He’s got this incredibly resilient attitude, people who meet him comment that he’d have so many reasons to hang back and not participate in sports, but he’s just a little go getter, with a great sense of fun.

Just like his brother Jack, who is his biggest supporter and best friend, Leroy started walking at 12 months – and hasn’t sat still since. The boys love riding bikes, playing basketball, soccer, and tennis, and we live on a golf course.

"There is only one pretty child in the world, and every mother has it."- Chinese Proverb

Leroy gets fatigued, he takes lots of rest breaks and we massage his leg and foot every night. At the moment he has some horrific blisters from the cast and new brace, that need a lot of extra care and rest to heal. We’ve had to say, “you can’t play basketball, you can’t run with your friends at lunch time.” Up until now, we’ve never said “no you can’t.” That’s hard.

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It’s a step by step process

We’ve always been honest and open with him. Although he no longer has to wear his boots and bar, he now has a new AFO to wear, and he knows we can’t predict what ongoing treatments will be. When it’s time for another appointment, we’ll say, “ok mate, we don’t know what’s going to happen today, ok?” And he’d look up at me with his big beautiful smile and say, “yep that’s ok mum.” Sometimes we’d walk away and he’ll have a plaster cast on, but he’s accepted that.

As a family, we’re getting through this together. We’re confident that Leroy’s treatment plan will be successful.

When Leroy was two, I wrote a book called Leroy’s Boots, sharing his story. I wanted him to love wearing his boots and bar, it was part of his story. We’ve had so much positive feedback, and have released a second edition. A portion of profits are donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne, and other charities that Jack and Leroy choose. If you would like a copy of our special book check out our website , , Instagram . Also, check out Aussie Clubfoot Kids