In 2010 Erto was born in the small village of Otse, Botswana, with clubfoot. His mother, Catherine, says, “It was very hard. I was afraid when the nurse said ‘come and see’. His feet were turned inward. I got sick and had so much stress.”
Peace Corps worker Maggie Kraft often walked through Otse. “One day, a young woman approached me and asked me for help, which I simply could not ignore.” Maggie says. “She wasn’t asking me for money. She simply showed me her son and his feet and asked for help.”
Erto was almost two years old and could not walk. Erto tried to stand on his feet, and wanted to chase his older siblings like any other child his age, but he could not. He was living with uncorrected clubfoot. After six months of casting as a baby, the hospital told Catherine they couldn’t help him anymore. Erto faced a future of disability and struggle.
Maggie contacted STEPS’ Karen Moss for help. Karen in turn contacted Tshepang in Gaborone, and STEPS, with the help of other South African and Motswanan moms, put together a plan to get Erto the treatment he desperately needed.
STEPS raised funding for Erto, and organised that he and his mother travelled every two weeks for hundreds of kilometres from his rural village to an experienced Ponseti doctor in Johannesburg for the casting process. Maggie organised passports for Catherine and Erto, and travelled with them the first time, because they had never been outside Botswana. Kim, who had taken her housekeeper for the first clinic visit to have her child’s feet cast, offered Catherine and Erto overnight accommodation at her home for each clinic visit. Tshepang and Oratile (now both STEPS Botswana Trust members) arranged tickets, taxis and other logistics for Catherine and Erto.
After 10 casts, Erto’s feet were straight. With the help of Dr Bhat, a Ponseti-trained surgeon who had recently returned to Gaborone, the tenotomy was done in Botswana under local anaesthetic.
Erto can run and play like any other little boy in his village. “I’m happy he can play like a normal child,” says Catherine. “He has no difficult playing at all. He is so active. What comforts me is that I am not alone and he is doing so much better than some other children.”
There are other stories like Erto’s. Children who live too far from Ponseti clinics can’t get the treatment they need. Do you want to contribute to helping rural children get access to Ponseti treatment?