My Clubfoot Journey

Female portrait photo grid showing front and back, she is wearing a yellow T-shirt written in front "International Clubfoot Day, June 3rd" and on the back of the T-shirt "Brave, strong, fearless, clubfoot warrior"

Photo Credit: Coach Lanjo

Clubfoot Survivors can Reach their Full Potentials.

I am Veronica Ngum Ndi. I was born with a clubfoot deformity on my right foot and it identifies me as a person with disability. I am telling my clubfoot story to educate families and communities on the importance to support persons living with clubfoot to live a normal life and attain their full potentials in life. My clubfoot journey began from birth because it is a birth defect and I will continue to walk this journey throughout my life and leave it as a legacy for my generations to come. It is a deformity in which an infant's foot is turned inward, often so severely that the bottom of the foot faces sideways or even upward. Around 1 infant in every 1000 live births (. 001%) will have clubfoot, making it one of the most common congenital foot deformities present at birth.

When I was born, my mother nursed me just like any other baby and was very observant as she watched me grow, learning how to crawl and take my first step as a baby. However, she realised there was an abnormality with my right leg because it seemed weaker than the left. She further observed that I was unable to place my foot normally on the ground and was slower than my siblings in running around and playing with them, as children would do, causing me to me to always cry.

My mother always told my father that this child has a problem with her foot but my father would not listen. When the deformity was more visible my father had died and my mother started struggling alone to seek solution for my foot. She was advised by a relative to take me to Saint Martin the Pores hospital in Njinikom, she did and I had my first surgery known as tendon release. The surgery was unsuccessful but she did not give up on me.

My family has been supportive to see me through surgical correction and rehabilitation. I remain grateful to my brother who paid all hospital bills and my younger sister who donated blood for transfusion during my surgery and further stood by me all through my stay in the hospital wiping my tears as I cried in pains from the surgery.  

My journey with a clubfoot has been very challenging but transformative too. On the negative side, I have faced stigma, stereotypes, discrimination and marginalization. I have been limited to access life opportunities, improve self-confidence, and build self-esteem. I have always gained so much weight and unable to do anything about it due to depression and low self-esteem. I have faced challenges on the type of shoes and clothes to wear because after surgery, every shoe I should wear needs an orthopaedic adaptation before I wear them. It is recommended I wear ankle support shoe most of my lifetime and the challenges continue…..

Though with the numerous challenges I faced over the years, my clubfoot experience has given me a transformative career that will be a legacy. I am highly gifted and inspired with great passion to inspire others. I have a strong desire to make the world a better place for persons with disabilities because of the adversities I faced growing up with a disability. Even though my clubfoot was corrected later in my life as an adult, and I can walk with minimal challenges, I am a committed advocate for the rights of all persons with disabilities by being the CEO and founder of the Community Association for Vulnerable Persons (CAVP) Bamenda, Cameroon.

My clubfoot journey has transformed into a career journey that is so exciting and empowering. I now advocate locally, nationally and internationally for women and girls with disabilities globally. I fly across the globe to speak and advocate on my works, works of women in grassroots communities and rights of women and girls with disabilities in Cameroon. I am a public and motivation speaker that is an inspiration to many. I have great self-confidence and self-esteem now and have improved on my social interactions. I can now wear different types of shoes and clothes that boost my confidence. I have overcome my clubfoot to the extent that I have enrolled in a fitness club to take a weight loss challenge and its working well for me.

As my clubfoot was not recognized when I was born, in the same way many parents and communities do not recognize children born with clubfoot around them. The deformity can be on one or both legs. When noticed, early intervention is very important as early treatment will leave no trace as the child grows up.

The 3rd of June every year is international clubfoot day. This day set aside by the international community as a commemoration for clubfoot, is the birthday of Ignacio Ponseti. He brought about the treatment of clubfoot in children 0-3 years with casting known as the “Ponseti Method”.

I am committed to promote clubfoot awareness every day throughout my life. I am telling my story to let families and communities know that persons with clubfoot need support in order to have better lives. Being born with a clubfoot is just like other forms of disabilities that require flexibility and the practice of the concept of universal design to enable them fully integrate in community life.

There are many myths surrounding disability and clubfoot. My mother always tells me I was sitting on a wrong position in the womb, my foot was deformed by twin witchcraft because I was born after twins and was to be named as their younger sister which was not done. Just as my mother, other families will have their own stories to tell but I want the world to know that clubfoot is a birth defect and can be treated. Get the right information and make informed decision on what steps to take the child to access the right services at the right time.  Watch my story:

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