To see Ally Mauck running, jumping, ice-skating, or chasing after her older brother Jason, it’s hard to imagine she was born with a common birth defect that could have made such activities impossible.
When Joyce and Craig Mauck brought Ally home from China in 2004, they were determined to find the best treatment for their nearly 3-year-old adopted daughter’s clubfeet, a condition that occurs during fetal development and causes the foot to twist inward and down.
Joyce researched a non-surgical treatment for clubfoot but was told by numerous orthopedics specialists that this worked only with infants. It seemed that Ally’s only option would be a series of surgeries. At one point, her parents were told Ally’s feet might need to be amputated even after the operations.
The Maucks chose a specialist in a neighboring state to begin Ally’s surgical correction. Before the first surgery was scheduled, however, they had a change of heart.
“Call it a mother’s intuition, but I knew there had to be a better way,” Joyce says.
She renewed her research and learned more about the non-surgical approach that was emerging as the global standard.
Known as the Ponseti Method for the man who developed it—Ignacio Ponseti, MD, the longtime orthopedic specialist at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital—it involves gentle, manual manipulation of a child’s foot to stretch ligaments and realign bones. Once repositioned, the foot is held in place with a toe-to-groin plaster cast that is changed after each successive manipulation. Five or six cast changes typically are performed to treat babies with clubfoot.
After consulting with several doctors trained in the non-surgical method, Joyce called Dr. Ponseti, who was still treating children at age 91.
“We talked, and I knew this was our miracle,” Joyce recalls.
Three days later, in August 2005, the Maucks traveled to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital to begin Ally’s treatment, administered by Dr. Ponseti himself.
Ally underwent 17 manipulations and cast changes over three months, followed by a simple surgical procedure—a tendon transfer to prevent relapse— performed by UI orthopedic surgeon and Ponseti Method practitioner Jose Morcuende, MD, PhD.
“Ally had to learn to ‘walk’ again, and she worked so hard,” Joyce says. “To watch her take her first steps with her ‘new’ feet was special. To see her today is simply amazing.”
Ally returns to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital for annual follow-up appointments and is doing great.
Joyce is proud of Ally’s progress and emphatic about the doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and Child Life specialists who made it possible. She speaks fondly of Dr. Ponseti, who died at age 95 in 2009.
“I’m so glad we were able to find Dr. Ponseti and Dr. Morcuende and be at a place like this,” she says. “We couldn’t ask for anything more for our daughter. We are so incredibly grateful.”