A mother’s desperate hope: ‘My child will walk normally’

By admin
10 February 2016

Even before her birth, doctors suspected there was something wrong with Ansolei’s hips. Her mom Marilee shares her story with YOU.

Ansolei was born by Caesarean on 26 August last year because she’d been sitting upright in her mother’s womb.

But even before her birth, doctors suspected there was something wrong with Ansolei’s hips.

Fortunately Marilee noticed Ansolei’s condition early and the baby could be treated. PHOTO: Supplied Marilee and Ansolei. PHOTO: Supplied

After conducting extensive scans, Ansolei was diagnosed with a condition known as developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), where the sockets of the hip joint aren’t completely developed. This means the hipbone is a bit loose and could slip out of joint.

Fortunately Ansolei’s early diagnosis meant she could be treated. Her mom, Marilee Kenny of Kuils River, Cape Town shares her story with YOU.

“Ansolei was just a week old when I took her to Dr Ryno du Plessis, an outstanding orthopaedic surgeon at the Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt in Cape Town.

He gave her sonar one look and said she had DDH. But I was quickly reassured; it could be remedied because we’d caught it early. My daughter was placed in a so-called Pavlik harness.

Marilee had to devise clever ways to protect Ansolei's delicate skin from the harness. PHOTO: Supplied. Marilee had to devise clever ways to protect Ansolei's delicate skin from the harness. PHOTO: Supplied.

She had to wear it day and night; no one was allowed to adjust it or remove it. She couldn’t be bathed and I had to be content with only wiping her down.

It was traumatic when he put the harness on my child. Suddenly there was something between me and my baby. All I saw was the harness. I couldn’t dress her properly and there was no skin-to-skin contact. I was shattered. Although I knew it was better to be doing it earlier than later, it wasn’t at all pleasant to see my baby like that.

Before long I was making plans. How would I prevent the harness chafing her? How would I prevent it getting dirty? How would I dress her properly? I had covers made to protect her skin and wide pants that would fit over the harness.

It was incredibly difficult for Marilee to see her baby girl in the harness day in and day out. PHOTO: Supplied It was incredibly difficult for Marilee to see her baby girl in the harness day in and day out. PHOTO: Supplied

At five weeks I received the bad news: Ansolei’s legs weren’t stabilising. The next step was plaster of Paris. This would involve a general anaesthetic, plaster of Paris for six weeks, another general anaesthetic and plaster for another six weeks. Ryno gave us one more week. If Ansolei’s hips hadn’t improved at the end of seven days he would go ahead with the plaster.

I so hoped the harness would work, but had to find a way of keeping my baby’s legs separated. I found valuable information on the internet about the do’s and don’ts of using the Pavlik harness. For example, you mustn’t allow the baby’s legs to straighten when changing a nappy.

You must lift the baby by supporting the bottom and ensure its legs remain spreadeagled like a frog’s legs. Also, don’t allow the baby to sleep or drink while lying on it’s side, and don’t allow it’s clothes to force the legs together. Determined that my child would not be put in plaster, I put a cloth nappy over her nappy to keep her legs apart.

Ansolei's legs couldn't be allowed to straighten, even when having her nappy changed. PHOTO: Supplied Ansolei's legs couldn't be allowed to straighten, even when having her nappy changed. PHOTO: Supplied

The following week Ryno was childishly excited about Ansolei’s progress. Plaster wouldn’t be necessary. After many sonars and examinations we were given the good news in November that her hips had stabilised enough and that the harness could come off in January. We were overjoyed.

In mid-January Ansolei’s harness was removed. If I hadn’t done all that research on the Pavlik harness my child would have had to be put in plaster. Ryno’s words, “The sonar shows her hips are now normal”, were probably the most beautiful sentence I’d ever heard.

My advice to parents whose children were born with DDH or who developed it later:

These are the signs parents must watch for:

  • Hips that click (you can feel it under the baby’s bottom)
  • Legs that aren’t the same length
  • The skin folds under the bottom don’t look the same on both sides
  • One leg may be turned outward

DDH doesn’t cause pain in babies but it does in toddlers and older children. If DDH is diagnosed early enough the baby is usually put in a Pavlik harness (like Ansolei). This harness has a success rate of about 90 percent.

Marilee and her husband Andrew, and Ansolei with their doctor, Ryno. PHOTO: Supplied Marilee and her husband Andrew, and Ansolei with their doctor, Ryno. PHOTO: Supplied

It’s still important to pay attention to the following:

  • Keep the legs splayed as much as possible
  • Pick up the baby by it’s bottom/lower back when changing nappies
  • Your baby shouldn’t spend too long in a baby carseat
  • Don’t fight the harness or plaster as this will only exhaust you emotionally
  • Accept things and take one day at a time. You may cry but it’s worse for you than the child. Children adapt easily.
  • If DDH isn’t treated it can lead to permanent hip trouble. One leg might also be shorter than the other.
  • Although there’s no specific cause of DDH, genetics does play a role. It’s hereditary and usually occurs in first-born daughters or breech births.

The position of the baby in the womb can also play a role because it can put pressure on the hips and stretch the ligaments. The positioning of babies during their first year of life also plays a big role.

In cultures where babies’ legs are wrapped together tightly the incidence of DDH is higher than in cultures where babies are carried in the “frog position” on their mothers’ backs. Be aware of the baby’s position when you carry it close to you. The legs must be separated and the knees must be higher than the bottom."

For more information go to hipdysplasia.org.

This story was submitted to YOU by one of our readers and has been minimally edited.

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