Hope Sparks from Camp Fire Aftermath for Boy with Clubfoot

Even the Camp Fire in Paradise, California couldn’t tamp out the joy that Amber Paton felt when she watched her son Rider, 7, run around while she sorted through her belongings spread out in front of her burned-down house. Until recently, walking, let alone running, was something Rider could barely do without crying out in pain.

“After the fire, there was so much that was wrong, but watching my son run around was so right,” says Paton.

Before she found the Clubfoot Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Steven Frick, MD, chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery, she had nearly given up hope that her son’s feet could ever work right. Rider had been in casts and braces since he was six days old to correct his bilateral clubfoot. He endured six failed surgeries before coming to Packard Children’s. When he was first seen at Packard Children’s, Rider was extremely ill from an infection in his left foot. He had had a reaction to suture material from a past surgery that was misdiagnosed as a cyst.

“Rider was so sick. He had a fever throughout his whole body. I was desperate, so I went on the clubfoot community page on Facebook and Dr. Frick’s name kept popping up,” Paton says. “I contacted him and told him how hopeless I felt, and he sent a message saying he’d be happy to help.”

Clubfoot, usually discovered in an ultrasound or at birth, causes one or both feet to become malformed, rotating downward and turning inward. Packard Children’s offers clubfoot treatment options that include the Ponseti Method and, in rare cases, surgery. The Ponseti Method involves casting after birth and bracing. In some cases the Achilles tendon is too tight, and a minor surgery is performed to lengthen it.

“The Ponseti Method is the best for congenital clubfoot, and exhaustive attempts with this method should be made before more traditional clubfoot surgery is performed, especially surgery that opens the joint,” says Dr. Frick, whose own son had clubfoot, inspiring him to specialize in the condition.

Rider needed surgical revisions to lengthen his Achilles tendon on both feet, as well as corrective joint release surgery and an osteotomy release on the infected bump from the old suture material.

“Rider did really well in the operating room, and he was great about wearing his braces afterwards, which makes a big difference,” Dr. Frick says. “His feet are in a much better position. It’s very gratifying to see a child functioning better and getting to live a normal childhood.”

Paton admits that there have been tough moments over the last year. She says she doesn’t often get emotional, but the gratitude she has for Dr. Frick and his office manager, Glenda, can make her tear up.

“Never in a million years did I think my son’s feet could be so straight,” she says. “I never thought the bottom of his heel would grow calluses. That’s a funny thing to be happy about, but his right heel never touched the ground before.”

Rider’s feet work, and he uses them every chance he gets. On any given day on the playground, you can hear Rider challenging other kids to a race. Rider says that he loves to run because he’s fast, and the more he runs, the faster he gets. Mom suspects that he also wants to be like his favorite cartoon character, Sonic the Hedgehog, who is always zooming around.

“I raced against the fastest kid in my part of the playground, and I won. I am the fastest!” says Rider.

Rider no longer has to wear braces during the day, just at night. Soon, he will be able to give up braces altogether. He used to be shy at school about his surgery scars. Now, he shows them off with pride. After all, these latest scars are what lets him run.


3 Responses to “Hope Sparks from Camp Fire Aftermath for Boy with Clubfoot”

  1. julie rogers

    Amber, you have always been my hero, you do so much for whomever needs it. I love that Rider is getting better, i knew if there was a way that you would find it! So happy for you and your fam.

  2. Laura Talk

    He’s an amazing boy as is the whole family. This family has been through so much and they always triumphed through it all. I am so happy that he has the confidence to be and feel like all the other kids his age.

  3. Tanbir Nadim

    Hi Lynn Nichols,
    This post is really helpful. I learn a lot. Actually youth is the best time but most parents become careless after completing age of 8 to 20. This post really boost up my knowledge.



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