Michelle Pullen, South African, is a Physical Therapist serving on board the Africa Mercy, working with patients like Prinscio.
Prinscio was two when he took his first steps, walking on the tops of his twisted feet. Born with bilateral club feet, he developed this curious gait to get around. He was ashamed of the way he moved, and he would declare, “Don’t talk about my feet!” to anyone who stared.
In every other way, Prinscio simply delighted in life. “He does everything with happiness. He smiles with his whole body,” his mother Joceline says.
Within weeks of his birth, Prinscio’s parents tried correcting his condition with Malagasy massage. A dozen “healers” gave them conflicting advice. His parents became deeply discouraged because they had spent so much money and nothing helped.
Three years later, a medical specialist told them Mercy Ships was in Madagascar providing the exact treatment Prinscio needed – free of charge.
At his first appointment, volunteer physiotherapists explained Prinscio’s club feet could be corrected by plaster casts, minor surgery, exercises and the use of night-time braces.
The bright little three-year-old enthusiastically helped at his therapy visits saying, “I’ve got to do it!” He also chatted about his dreams, “Mamma, when my feet are fixed, I will ride a bike and play football. I will be like other kids!”
After eight sessions and a series of eight double leg casts, Prinscio underwent a minor surgery called a tenotomy (tendon release) to attain the last degrees of correction in his feet.
As the day approached to finally remove his casts, Prinscio was beyond excited. His mother overheard him talking to one of his friends, “Tomorrow when I come home, my feet will be just like yours!”
On December 22, 2015 the casts were removed, revealing beautiful straight feet. Joceline exclaimed, “This is the best Christmas gift ever!”
Large, heavy callouses remain on the upper side of Prinscio’s small feet. It takes a moment to realize these are the “heels” he previously walked on.
Prinscio now stands confidently, flat on the soles of his beautifully restored feet.
Story by Sharon Walls
Edited by Nancy Predaina
Photos by Justine Forrest, Katie Keegan and Ruben Plomp