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Exporting a healing method

IOWA CITY Iowa — A revolutionary non-surgical method for correcting club foot a congenital birth defect occurring in roughly one of every thousand children is gaining wide acceptance thanks in part to an LDS pediatrician and faculty member at the University of Iowa where the method was developed.
Photo by R. Scott LloydUsing model Val C. Sheffield explains Ponseti method for treating club foot that avoids the expense and complications of traditional surgery.
Val C. Sheffield a professor in the universitys Department of Pediatrics recently returned from Yaroslavl Russia where he and two colleagues worked with Church humanitarian service missionaries to train 22 doctors from nine hospitals the local medical academy and six cities in applying the Ponseti method of club foot treatment.
The method was developed nearly 50 years ago at the university by Ignacio Ponseti now a 92-year-old professor emeritus in the universitys Department of Orthopaedics but has only been gaining acceptance the last six years or so in the United States as well as other countries.
Brother Sheffield a member of the Iowa City 1st Ward described club foot as a condition in which the bones of the foot are misaligned such that the foot is curved inward and extended downward. Left untreated its victims are disabled and obliged to get around by walking on the tops of their feet.
The traditional treatment has been cutting of the tendons Brother Sheffield said. And that makes the foot look better temporarily but functionally its a disaster. Down the road patients have bad arthritis and its crippling.
Moreover such surgery typically costs about $30000 for each foot a prohibitive factor particularly in Third World countries where in some populations the incidence is as high as one in every 250 births and can carry an enormous human cost especially for women and children.
And the amazing thing is theres a simple effective treatment thats cheap Brother Sheffield remarked.
The Ponseti method involves a series of two to five casts being placed on the foot for intervals as short as four or five days apart he said. The casts progressively bring about correction of the deformity. If any surgery at all is required it is a minor procedure in which the Achilles tendon is cut and then allowed to grow longer as it heals.
You can learn how to do it if youre a physician in a matter of a day or two Brother Sheffield said of the Ponseti technique.
His involvement May 23-26 with the Russian doctors was initiated a year ago when he and his wife Kristin traveled to Russia to pick up their son Aaron who was concluding his service in the Russia Moscow Mission. There he became acquainted with Elder Wolfgang Wesemann and Sister Margot Wesemann who are serving a Church humanitarian mission in Yaroslavl.
Through the Wesemanns Brother Sheffield learned of the need. This led to his contacting a colleague and friend in the universitys Department of Orthopaedic Surgery Jose Morcuende who has at his own expense taught the Ponseti method at various places in the world. With another pediatric orthopedic surgeon Matthew Dobbs of Washington University St. Louis they traveled to the Russian city where they helped the 22 doctors give initial treatment to 21 children.
Then we set it up so they would get follow-up treatment Brother Sheffield said. The doctors can be already competent after good training to do the follow-up.
The Ponseti method has been gaining ground in the United States as well thanks in part to the efforts of Martin Egbert of the Seven Hills Ward Henderson Nevada Anthem Stake. About six years ago his son Joshua was born in Las Vegas with club foot. He found out about the Ponseti method on the Internet and traveled to Iowa City where Joshua was successfully treated. Thereafter he and other parents of club foot victims launched an effort to spread the word about the method on the Internet. This has resulted in physicians and hospitals in other cities converting to the Ponseti method particularly in Polynesia where the incidence of the malady is very high.
At the recent observance in Iowa City of the Handcart Sesquicentennial Brother Egbert was present with Joshua now an active 6-year-old. He reflected that he had not known Iowa City was the birthplace of the handcart venture when he went there six years ago. But they visited the Mormon Handcart Park in Coralville where he reflected that Joshuas ancestor Alice Ann Creer had been 6 years old when she had started out from Iowa City as a handcart pioneer the age Joshua is now.
This is where his ancestor began her walk and this is where he had his feet corrected so he could walk Brother Egbert said.
E-mail to: rscott@desnews.com

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