Ice Cube Press, LLC
New Book Chronicles Legendary Iowa Doctor
IOWA CITY, Iowa (December 4, 2019) – Arlene Humble was born in the late 1950’s in Ossian, Iowa, with a condition that no one had ever heard of before, clubfoot. Her feet were severely pointed down and tilted inward so that the soles nearly touched one another. The local physician thought she would never walk normally.
Arlene’s parents soon made their way to the Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. Over the next six weeks, an orthopedic specialist, Dr. Ignacio Ponseti, completely reshaped her feet using a series of gentle manipulations followed by the application of precisely molded plaster casts, each one holding her tiny feet in a more normal alignment. Arlene then wore a special brace on her feet while napping and sleeping until she was four years old to prevent return of the deformity.
During her childhood and adolescence, Arlene was as active and healthy as her peers and siblings. Today she is Vice President of Humble Travel in Cedar Falls and has been active on the boards of several community organizations. Ironically, one of Arlene’s daughters is a nurse practitioner in the Orthopaedics Department where the treatment method that gave her mother the opportunity for a normal life was developed.
Arlene’s story is one of several included in the new book, Clubfoot: The Quest for a Better Life for Millions of Children. The author is Professor Emeritus Thomas Cook from the University of Iowa. Tom Brokaw, renowned journalist, broadcaster, and himself a highly successful author, characterizes the book as “the truly remarkable life story of Dr. Ignacio Ponseti and his continuing impact on the lives of children around the world.” Brokaw goes on to describe Dr. Ponseti as “God’s gift to these children.”
Cook is a physical therapist, biomedical engineer, and global health specialist who first met Dr. Ponseti in 1992. His book addresses three major questions. Who was Dr. Ignacio Ponseti? What is the treatment he developed? How successful is his quest for a world without disability from clubfoot?
Although it is unusual to see individuals in the U.S. or other developed countries walking on the sides or tops of feet that are pointing sideways or even backwards, clubfoot remains the world’s most common skeletal birth defect. It is present in some 200,000 newborns every year and occurs in every country around the globe, including the U.S.
Cook describes how young Dr. Ponseti, after becoming entangled in the Spanish Civil War and being forced into exile in France and then Mexico, found a home in Iowa in 1941. He soon discovered that surgery to correct clubfoot in infants often results in arthritis, pain, and serious disability later in life. Ponseti was determined to develop a non-invasive alternative for correcting this crippling deformity and he began a life-long quest to reshape the lives of children born with clubfoot from lives of pain and disability to those of hope and promise without surgery.
While children from Iowa, like Arlene, benefited from the skilled manipulations that Dr. Ponseti used to painlessly straighten their tiny feet, physicians elsewhere discounted Dr. Ponseti’s method in favor of surgery for nearly fifty years.
Finally, by the late 1990’s, parents began searching the Internet for the best way to correct their child’s deformity and discovered the Ponseti Method. They soon forced the medical establishment to recognize the genius of this humble immigrant doctor from Iowa.
Although Dr. Ponseti’s treatment is now accepted by professional societies around the world as the “gold standard” for correcting clubfoot, Cook reports that many children continue to undergo surgery while tens of thousands in low-resource countries still lack access to a treatment provider who is skilled in the Ponseti Method.
Dr. Jose Morcuende, Dr. Ponseti’s understudy and successor, directs the Ponseti Clubfoot Treatment and Research Center at the University of Iowa which draws more than a hundred patients from around the U.S. and around the globe every year. Dr. Morcuende has participated in more than 200 international training programs in the last fifteen years and mentors a steady stream of visiting doctors who come to Iowa to learn the Ponseti Method firsthand from him, as they did from Dr. Ponseti.
Iowa is the home of the Ponseti International Association and the Rotarian Action Group for Clubfoot, two organizations that actively support the training of healthcare practitioners to rigorously apply the treatment method Dr. Ponseti developed so many years ago. In addition, Iowa is the home of both the non-profit organization Clubfoot Solutions and MD Orthopedics. Together they are the world’s largest producers and distributors of high-quality clubfoot braces.
Cook says he wrote the book because the story of Dr. Ponseti’s life and his unfinished quest to eliminate disability from clubfoot “just has to be told.” He added that Dr. Ponseti’s treatment method is referred to by many as “Iowa’s Gift to the World.”
The book is available directly from the Iowa publisher at www.IceCubePress.com and wherever good books are sold. More information about clubfoot can be found at www.ponseti.info
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Arlene Humble and daughter with the clubfoot brace Arlene wore as a child
African girl with untreated clubfoot
Dr Morcuende, Dr Ponseti and clubfoot patient