Sunday, 25 August 2013


By Iris Mhlanga.
My son Christian Andrea Mavolwane was born in 1999 with a condition called congenital talipes, commonly known as Clubfoot. He went through physiotherapy and casting from day one and after a few months without progress was operated on at Mater Dei Hospital in Bulawayo Zimbabwe at the tender age of five months. This was an attempt to surgically correct the physical condition and this was followed by casting for a few weeks. 
Christian's feet before treatment
Later, orthopaedic shoes were prescribed which he wore on and off until he started walking when he was one and a half years. From the time Christian started walking there were no problems with his feet until last year when I realised that his big toe was progressively curling downwards. Then after a few months his toes became rigid and maintained that position. It became difficult for me to be able to afford the escalating costs of having my son’s feet corrected. I was unemployed and had no way of meeting the medical costs.

Christian had to wear over-sized shoes to accommodate his curled toe and sometimes preferred to walk barefooted as shoes were uncomfortable. One day I decided to do some research on his condition to see if there was an affordable way of getting him treated. I came across a few sites on the internet of hospitals and organisations offering the service and I sent out mails describing the boy’s state to as many as I could.
I go a few responses from doctors in South Africa who quoted me fees that were out of this world.

I did not lose hope though or give up. My persistence paid off when I received an email from Jennifer Wambui, the Chief Executive Director at Clubfoot Correction Awareness Initiative, CaCAI. She referred me to Dr. Giorgio Lastroni at the Beit CURE hospital, in Lusaka Zambia. Dr. Lastroni recommended that I take my son to Lusaka so that he could see him in person.

I embarked on a journey of hope to Zambia with Christian and his sister Ana.I had been informed that treatment would be free but I was very sceptical. On arrival at the hospital, Dr Lastroni reassured me that the treatment indeed would be free as long as my son was under the age of 17. I could not believe my ears and was so overwhelmed emotionally.

Christian was admitted on the 24th day of April, 2013 and went in for surgery the following day that saw his toes straightened. My son stayed in the hospital for a week under the doctor’s observation. The doctors decided to do another operation on his foot to avoid any further recurrence. He was then discharged and we were told we could return home to Zimbabwe. We were told that his other foot would be corrected at a later stage. We went back home a few days later after we were cleared to travel.

Christian on a wheel chair after the operation on his foot
Christian was very unsteady on his feet and struggled to use his crutches but once we got on home soil, he gained more confidence. A few weeks later we returned to Zambia to the hospital that was to be our home for the next two weeks.The doctors adeptly removed the plaster and the pins that had been inserted to straighten his toes. It was like a miracle! His foot looked as straight as my own and we were so pleased at the outcome.
Christian's foot immediately after removing the plaster

We are back home in Zimbabwe and my son is able to walk unaided now. His foot has vastly improved and he is free from the pain he used to experience before.  We are glad to be half way through our journey to having Christian’s feet corrected and we look forward to going back to Beit CURE Hospital to correct the other foot. Doctors have told us that it will not be as complex as the operations done on the first foot.
This is all thanks to a little research, faith and determination and the immeasurable support of Jennifer Wambui and her team at CaCAI and all the staff at Beit CURE Hospital in Lusaka Zambia. May God bless them and the excellent work they are doing.