As Christmas approached in 2017 Heather Fricke was preparing to attend a festive get-together with her family. But while she was getting ready, the mom’s attention was drawn to her baby son’s foot by her partner. A strange line spotted on two toes soon had his parents rushing little Jacob to hospital.
As many moms and dads will no doubt attest, the role of a parent can be incredibly demanding, especially during the initial stages. After all, small babies require a lot of care and attention. In the Frickes’ case, though, they were faced with an unusual challenge ahead of the holiday season.
Residents of Michigan, the Frickes enjoyed a memorable period at the back-end of 2017. Indeed, Heather gave birth to her son Jacob in the fall of that year, and the family were all set to celebrate their first Christmas together. Yet those plans threatened to unravel when the parents spotted something quite strange.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Frickes caught sight of a worrying mark on their baby’s toes while they were getting ready to go out. At that stage, the parents didn’t hesitate in their decision to rush Jacob to the emergency room. Following their trip, the Michigan residents then issued a warning to other moms and dads out there via a social media post.
For those of us who are parents, the first few weeks with our babies are absolutely crucial. Given how small and fragile they are, we need to keep a close eye on them at all times. It’s a very delicate period, but the effort is certainly worth it, especially if you do see something amiss like the Frickes did.
With that in mind, there are some notable ailments that parents need to be aware of regarding their baby’s feet. One of those conditions is called in-toeing, and it can prove quite problematic for youngsters. In those cases, the appendages grow at an inward angle, as opposed to a straight line.
Due to that, the affected individual might struggle to walk or run. Thanks to those symptoms, parents can normally spot if their child is suffering with in-toeing, yet that’s not always the case. Should it go unnoticed, though, most young kids will grow out of the condition naturally by a certain age without the need for specialist treatment.
However, other people such as Kendall Slover weren’t that fortunate, as we’ll soon discover. When Slover was a ten-year-old, she still suffered with in-toeing, which led to several problems. For you see, while this ailment is fairly painless for small kids, the same couldn’t be said for her condition once she reached double figures.
Reflecting on that period, Slover shed some light on her struggles during a conversation with the OrthoIndy blog in January 2016. She said, “Walking, running or even sitting cross-legged was very difficult for me. I was not able to be very active in gym class or participate in sports because it became too painful.”
From there, Slover’s mom offered her views on the matter as well. Mandi Goodlet told the blog, “Kendall’s condition had a great effect on our lives and often limited activities that we did as a family. A simple bike ride or long walk would often leave Kendall in so much pain, which was often not worth the activity.”
Goodlet added, “As a parent, it was very difficult to see my child in pain every day.” Slover continued to deal with her in-toeing for another four years, before making a big decision. At that stage, she opted to visit a doctor named Carlos Berrios, who assessed the state of her legs.
Taking a closer look at in-toeing, the condition can be triggered by three different issues. The first is called metatarsus adductus, which describes the inward turning of feet. As for the other two, femoral anteversion and tibial torsion are ailments that lead to the abnormal positioning of the thigh bone and shin bone respectively.
In Slover’s case, her in-toeing was caused by femoral anteversion. Once Dr. Berrios had identified the issue, he then suggested that the problem could be fixed by an operation. After careful consideration, his patient welcomed the idea with open arms, as she looked to put those painful childhood years behind her.
Slover told the blog, “I wanted that sense of normalcy so badly and wanted to function without having to take pain medication, so I was ready for the surgery. I knew that eventually I would get there, because we finally found an answer to the problem.” Yet the news didn’t please everyone.
Indeed, Slover’s mom was unhappy that such drastic action had become necessary. After all, as we mentioned earlier, most in-toeing cases resolve themselves while the sufferer is still young. But for this teenager, the procedure was set to leave her in a wheelchair for a lengthy period, before she could use her legs again.
Goodlet said, “I remember back to Kendall’s very first appointment, when Dr. Berrios explained to me that Kendall needed to have a major surgery in order to correct her condition. The news was very unexpected and not what I wanted to hear. Honestly, I expected to hear that Kendall had a problem that maybe physical therapy or medication would treat.”
The upset mom continued, “But hearing the words that a major surgery was needed and our lives were about to change was very hard to hear.” Viewing this from her perspective as a mother, that stance was pretty understandable. Even though the operation would finally fix the ailment, Slover had some hard days ahead in the immediate future.
Thankfully for all concerned, the surgery was a success. Slover went on to work her way through the recovery process, and could at last stand on her own two feet again: this time without pain. Unsurprisingly, she was absolutely delighted during her talk with the OrthoIndy blog, touching on her thoughts at the time.
“I truly feel like Dr. Berrios gave me my life back,” Slover revealed. “After months of searching for answers, he was the only doctor that had a solution. I couldn’t be more appreciative of him and his team. He was able to give me back my freedom, and I was able to be a kid again.”
While this is a somewhat extreme example of what in-toeing can do, it does serve as a reminder to parents. If you catch a problem early enough with your baby, such situations might be avoided. However, there’s another ailment that moms and dads should be aware of as well.
Out-toeing is a medical condition that again affects the feet and legs of young children. As opposed to in-toeing, though, this issue causes your lower limbs to splay out at an unusual angle. Due to the striking visual, it’s earned the nickname “duck feet,” which is similar in derivation to its sister condition’s informal moniker, “pigeon-toed.”
Just like in-toeing, a child suffering with out-toeing usually grows out of it as time goes on. But it’s advised that parents should take their kids to the doctors anyway, so the physician can determine if they’re okay. For you see, some cases of “duck feet” are the result of bigger complications which may need treatment.
Meanwhile, Heather and Tommy Fricke faced down an altogether different challenge during the festive season in 2017. When they caught sight of a mark on their son’s toes, they stumbled upon a problem that can affect babies everywhere. To relay what transpired next, the mom wrote a lengthy message on her Facebook page.
Heather’s post began, “All parents, whether you’re a new mom or dad or even if you have other children, please read and share this so we can make more people aware. My son Jacob is ten weeks old and he never cries, except for his basic needs. Well today, after his diaper change, I put him down for his standard two-hour nap.”
“[When Jacob] woke up, I fed and changed both his diaper and clothes for a party we were going to,” Heather continued. “I handed him to his dad Tommy to put socks on him when Tommy realized his two toes were blue, and tied together with a strand of hair! I immediately took off what I could.”
Known as a hair tourniquet, this issue arises after a single hair gets tangled around a particular appendage. When it comes to small children, a strand can easily find its way on to their hands or feet. If that happens, and it falls close to a finger or toe, they could be in real danger.
Given the fragility of a baby’s body, a hair tourniquet can cut off the blood flow to the affected area. As a result of that, the child in question might suffer with long-term skin and nerve problems. In Jacob’s situation, though, things could’ve been far worse than that, as we’re about to find out.
Heather wrote, “[I] had to take [Jacob] to the ER, where we spent an hour. A team of five doctors tried to get the rest of MY HAIR off his two toes. Doctors said if I didn’t take off the hair that I was able to get off his two toes, they would’ve had to be amputated.”
After sharing that shocking bit of information, Heather offered an update on Jacob’s condition. According to the Michigan resident, he looked to be on the road to recovery. In addition to that, she also wanted to fire off a warning to other parents out there, suggesting it could happen to them too.
“[Jacob’s] doing just well,” the mom revealed. “[He’s] in a little pain and his poor toes look like they hurt so bad. Check your baby’s toes as often as you can!” From there, Jacob’s mother then outlined why hair tourniquets could do more damage to little boys than their female counterparts.
Heather explained, “And if you have a baby boy even [check] his PENIS. Yes, I said penis. They are such tiny babies and our hair can be such a hazard. But it’s something that we never really pay attention to. So please share this with all your mom friends with little babies!”
To conclude the Facebook post, Heather highlighted a photograph of Jacob’s left foot at the end. The picture was apparently taken about 12 hours on from the extraction of the hair tourniquet. Incredibly, there was still a painful-looking indentation along the baby’s two small toes, which were both bright red.
Off the back of this story, a professor from North Carolina shared a bit more information about the dangers of hair tourniquets. His name was Sean Fox, and he sat down for an interview with the Global News website in January 2018. According to him, hair wasn’t the only thing that could lead to this problem with babies.
Dr. Fox told the news website, “[A hair tourniquet] has the potential to cause significant harm. It is included on the list of considerations that would cause a child, particularly an infant, to become inconsolable. Often it is hair, but it can also be a thread from clothing as well.”
At that stage, Fox backed up Heather’s message, insisting that parents need to keep their eyes open. He continued, “Ideally, this is something that can be detected early and/or prevented altogether. Simply checking all areas of your child for anything that is wrapping around an extremity before it becomes constrictive will help avoid this situation.”
Furthermore, Dr. Fox also offered up some advice to those who found themselves in a similar situation to the Frickes. Indeed, the professor spoke about the steps that you need to take if your baby has felt the effects of a hair tourniquet. In his opinion, you need to apply certain creams to the area to help it heal.
“If the thread [or] hair is removed successfully and there was no significant damage,” Fox explained. “Then simple wound care with topic antibiotic ointments are often all that is needed. If the swelling had led to some potential poor blood flow, then often, [a] follow-up with orthopedic doctors is arranged.”
As for Heather’s Facebook post, it appeared to have the desired effect. The mom’s warning quickly went viral on social media, earning over 64,000 likes and close to 250,000 shares. Alongside that, it generated just under 60,000 comments from online users as well, many of whom revealed their shock.
By way of a typical example, take a look at this particular comment from one Facebook user. They wrote, “I never knew that hair of all things could be bad for a baby’s toes [and] fingers. [It] never entered my mind. More dads and granddads need to be aware of this [too].”
“Thank you so much for sharing [the story],” the social media user added. “[I] wish I would have known about it 24 years ago when my son was a little one. But, better late [than] never. Never too old to learn, that’s a fact.” Reading that comment, Heather doubtless felt happy that her plan to raise awareness had paid off.