This season we meet two families whose baby daughters have undergone treatment for two very different conditions.
When Maggie Hine and Tom Fox brought their newborn daughter, Evie, home from the hospital, they were as delighted as any first-time parents. “She was perfect,” says Maggie, “I was the happiest person in the world.”
But at Evie’s eight week immunisations, the doctor spotted a potential problem – the creases in Evie’s legs were not symmetrical. At ten weeks old, Evie was given an ultrasound scan to examine her hip joints. The scan showed that Evie had hip dysplasia – the ball of her hip was not in the socket of the hip joint as it should be, but instead was growing outside.
Hip dysplasia is a relatively common condition, with around 1 in 500 babies requiring treatment for it, but for new mum Maggie, the news was very distressing. “I was confused and shocked – I wanted to know why. I blamed myself, and went over and over in my head what I might have done that other mums hadn’t.”
Evie was put into a Pavlik harness – a special brace which keeps the baby’s hips in a fixed position to encourage the joint to develop correctly. It was a difficult thing for Maggie to watch happening to her daughter. “On the same day that Evie was diagnosed, we took our little girl home in a harness that was tied around her from the shoulders to the feet. It broke my heart.”
Evie was in the harness for six weeks, and it seemed to be working. Maggie and Tom looked forward to seeing their daughter free of the brace, and able to enjoy life normally. “The doctors were happy with her progress, and we were excited at the thought of Evie being able to have her freedom to kick, and even to have a bath. For two weeks she only had to wear the harness at night, and at the end of that period we had a scan booked, just to make sure that her hip hadn’t dislodged. The doctors seemed pretty positive, and I was sure we wouldn’t be needing anymore all day parking tickets at the hospital – Evie was on the up, and that’s where my baby was staying.”
However, contrary to expectations, the scan brought bad news – during the time that Evie had been out of the harness, her hip joint had indeed dislodged. With the Pavlik harness having failed, the next option was even more distressing – a week’s traction in hospital. “It was the longest week of my life,” says Maggie. “To watch my baby be tied practically upside down, and not to be able to do anything for her, was very tough and very emotional.”
After the week in traction, Evie was given an operation to place her hip bone back in the socket, and she was then put in a cast from her chest to her toes – where she had to remain for several months. It was a challenging time for her parents. “Evie wasn’t mobile in the cast, but we all tried our hardest to give her normality,” says Maggie. “I had to go back to work, because my maternity leave had finished, and Evie couldn’t go to nursery because she needed too much one on one care, so Tom worked part time and we shared our working weeks, to make sure one of us was there to care for Evie.”
While Evie was in the cast, simple everyday things became a big challenge. “Keeping the cast as clean as possible was a task in itself. We couldn’t bath Evie for three months, and her nappies were a little awkward. The nights were long, because we had to change her nappies every few hours just to make sure there were no accidents, as the cast couldn’t get wet – but we managed.”
And getting out and about brought its own set of problems. Maggie and Tom had to buy a specially adapted car seat, and though she fitted into her pushchair, Evie looked noticeably different in her cast. “Some of the public reactions were a bit upsetting,” says Maggie, “but mostly people were very helpful. Evie didn’t fit in some doorways of shops, because her legs where so far apart – we did see the funny side by the end, though!”
In fact, what Tom and Maggie began to understand was that although as parents they were distressed by their baby daughter’s predicament, she herself was too young to be upset by it. “We soon realised that Evie didn’t know any different, and that we just had to be as normal as we could for her. She woke up every morning with this big cheeky smile on her face, and I knew that it was all worth it. We took her to baby classes and she loved every minute, even though she was propped up on cushions.”
When Evie’s cast was finally able to come off it was a joyful moment for the whole family. “When they cut it off, Evie pointed to her toes and looked at me as if to say, ‘well, what are these mummy?’ I just filled up with tears and hugged her so hard – I hadn’t been able to hold her properly since she was eight weeks old!”
During the difficult times, Maggie and Tom were supported by those close to them, “we’ve been so lucky to have such amazing family and friends – it’s been overwhelming.” And also by the charity STEPS, “we found STEPS on Google, and rang them the same day – they were so helpful and understanding. Within two days they had sent us a pack containing all the information that we could have asked for.”
It’s been two months since the cast was removed, and Evie is now crawling and standing. She will still need checks on her hip, and she will continue to receive treatment until she is fourteen years old, but her parents are staying positive. “We can’t predict what will happen next, but we will just sit back and hope that, whatever it is, our little angel is comfortable and happy in the long run.” ✿