By Sumitra;Credit odditycentral.com
Parenting is tough at the best of times, but it has been nothing short of harrowing for Jackie and Matt Moravek, from Kalamazoo, Michigan. The young couple had to make the awful decision to have their four-year-old’s leg broken a total of 300 times over four months – that’s three times a day – just to save her from amputation.
Little Elsie Moravek was born with a rare disability known as proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), which caused her left leg to be deformed and much shorter than her right leg. The two treatment options presented to the Moraveks were amputation and prosthesis, but they managed to find a third way that could potentially lengthen Elsie’s leg by just over four inches. Sadly, the gruesome procedure involved breaking her leg three times a day for four months.
“A few local doctors suggested amputation, and we considered it because the leg lengthening process is so difficult to endure,” said Jackie. “We asked ourselves if we were being cruel to put our daughter through this and whether it was worth it. But we knew it was the right decision. We wanted Elsie to have the best life possible.”
It was when Jackie and Matt met Dr Shawn Standard, an expert in leg lengthening at the Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, that they finally decided to go ahead with the procedure. Elsie had her first surgery at 6 months old – a six-hour operation to reconstruct her knee, ankle and hip. She was then fitted with a prosthetic foot that bridged the gap between her real foot and the floor, after which she was able to walk for the first time.
But that was just the beginning of the ordeal. At age three she went through another surgery to surgically split apart her thigh and calf bones. Her leg was fitted with an external fixator device with ten pins piercing through her skin, muscle, and bone. And to prevent the break from healing, Jackie had to manually turn the screws on the device, pulling apart the femur and tibia bones by 0.039 inches a day.
By doing this, Elsie’s body was able to grow new bone, muscle, and skin in the gap and her leg gradually lengthened by four inches over four months. Throughout that time, the little girl was constantly on pain medication to withstand the agonizing treatment. “I felt very helpless,” Jackie recalled. “I was very pleased with her progress but it was hard to see her in pain and crying. Cleaning the open wounds where the ten pins had been drilled into her bone was the worst. It was agony for her. I felt upset watching her go through it, but we had a goal in mind.”
“I would have to put my mum hat on and push through it because I knew what the end result would be,” she added. And she was right – Elsie’s legs are now even for the first time in her life. But sadly, they will grow out of sync again as she grows older because of the growth deficiency in her left leg. Once she reaches her full height, she will need to go through another round of surgery to lengthen her leg again. As difficult as that sounds, Jackie says that all the pain and effort is worth it to keep Elsie from losing a leg.
“We wanted to give Elsie the best life possible and we thought the best option was to lengthen her leg,” she said. “That means she won’t need a prosthetic or to get her leg amputated so she can do everything other girls her age are capable of. We made a lot of sacrifices for this but every single one of them was worth it.”