Dozens of casts later, a future without clubfoot

Anna Davis

Anna Davis has had more than 50 casts in under 10 years of life. Born with clubfoot, a condition in which the foot is twisted out of shape or position, all but two of those casts were prescribed to help move her foot back into position. The other two? They helped fix broken bones that were the result of separate gymnastics and roller skating birthday parties. The fact that Anna can roller skate and tumble at all is thanks to her treatment at the Children’s Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center at Stanford Children’s Health.

Anna’s family met pediatric orthopedic specialist James Gamble, MD, when Anna was just a few days old. “We weren’t quite sure what to expect or what normal would even look like,” Anna’s mom, Caitlin, said. “Within a few visits, we knew we were in the right hands.”

Clubfoot is typically treated with a series of casts and braces on the foot and leg. For more severe cases, surgery may be required.

“About six weeks after Anna was born, she had her first surgery,” Caitlin said. “As we handed our tiny baby off to Dr. Gamble, my husband looked at me and said, ‘He’s got it. We don’t have to worry about her.’”

The surgery went well, and as the weeks went by, Anna was fitted with a series of casts and braces.

“The team at the orthopedic clinic really started to feel like our family,” Caitlin said. “Dr. Gamble would talk through any treatment with Anna and draw pictures for her.”

As she got older and her treatment progressed, the focus shifted toward helping Anna live a happy, healthy life.

“The key was balancing Anna’s treatment plan with Anna’s very strong desire to feel like a normal little girl. She really wanted to wear cute shoes,” Caitlin recalled. “When she had some issues with kids at school who made fun of her brace, we were able to pivot her treatment plan to give her a different brace that people wouldn’t be able to see and to do night bracing so she wouldn’t lose pace with her treatment goal.”

Thanks to Anna’s growing confidence in the strength of her foot, she now plays water polo, volleyball and basketball and loves to swim and ride her bike.

“Our goal with Anna has always been to enable her to do anything she wanted to do,” Caitlin said.

“Because of Anna’s hard work with Dr. Gamble and his team, she has never been limited. She plays sports. She ran in last year’s Summer Scamper for the first time, and my husband and I shed tears of joy as she crossed the finish line. This year, she’s planning to do the 5K.”

This growing confidence has led to new encounters with Stanford Children’s orthopedics team.

Anna Davis

“Anna is fearless and will try anything,” Caitlin said. “A few years ago, she broke her elbow at a gymnastics birthday party. [As she was being treated at the hospital, the] resident was saying, ‘We’ll refer you to orthopedics. You’ll get a permanent cast in a few days,’ and Anna said, ‘Oh don’t worry, I have Javi, and he can do different colors and patterns. I don’t need the referral. I’ve got somebody.’ Anna considers Javi to be her own personal caster.”

Looking ahead, Anna and her family are confident that Anna will be able to live a healthy life on the foundation of two strong feet.

“The orthopedics team is giving Anna the gift of an active life and have been teaching her skills about how to take care of her body and get stronger so she can try new things,” Caitlin said.

Anna has given the Stanford Children’s orthopedic team gifts as well, donating money to help Dr. Gamble and other doctors treat kids with severe orthopedic conditions who live in other areas of the world and do not have access to the necessary medical treatment for their conditions.

“Anna is a very, very special person,” said Dr. James Gamble, the pediatric orthopedic specialist who has treated Anna for the past 10 years. “Every year, Anna donates her Christmas money to a charity called Operation Rainbow. It’s a charity that my partner, Lawrence Rinsky, MD, and I have participated in for many years that provides orthopedic surgery to children in the developing world, including many with clubfoot.”

Anna said she was happy to give back, acknowledging she is lucky to be living an active life and has no plans to slow down.

“Without Dr. Gamble, I could not do all of the fun activities I can do now,” she said. “A few times, I’ve been to birthday parties and have done fun things like roller skating, and I’ve had to see Dr. Gamble even more. Even though I’ve had many surgeries and I don’t know if I’ll need any more, I know Dr. Gamble will help me keep my foot as strong as possible.”

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