A team of Blackpool medics are about to make a trip to Malawi to help change the lives of children born with disabilities.
Feet First Worldwide was founded in 2004 by orthopaedic surgeon Steve Mannion to treat and prevent physical disability worldwide through not only time and personal medical expertise, but also training and educating local medical personnel on important techniques and methods.
With several visits each year to Malawi, Laos and Papua New Guinea, Mr Mannion – nicknamed Super Steve – and his team aim to roll out and manage a worldwide programme to improve the recognition of musculoskeletal conditions, such as club foot and introduce new diagnostic techniques and treatment.
In June, a team from Feet First will fly out to Malawi once again.
It will include Mr Mannion, Bernadette Huyton senior orthopaedic theatre sister at Spire Fylde Coast Hospital, Clive Chenery, operating department practitioner, Danniella Baldwin, radiographer at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, as well as by Alan Monks, consultant anaesthetist at The Vic.
Mr Mannion, who works as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at both Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Spire Fylde Coast Hospital, said: “Having spent a number of years working full-time in Malawi it was clear there were fundamental problems in the diagnosis and treatment of a hugely common problem for the people of the area – clubfoot.
“In less developed world countries such as Malawi it is absolutely vital each person has the ability and health to work and provide for their families. Previously either treatment was not available at all or was ineffective.
“The health system in these affected areas is run by health workers doing their very best with limited resources. To have the opportunity to return year on year with supplies and equipment is an honour.
“The difference we are now seeing is astronomical and with the correct attention and continued help we are battling the problem of clubfoot and other forms of physical disability very successfully.”
The team will be carrying out orthopaedic clinics and surgery both in the city of Lilongwi and out in neglected district hospitals where there are no doctors or surgeons.
They will be training theatre staff and clinical officers. The team have to prepare for all eventualities as best they can as they do not know what the caseload will be until they arrive at the hospitals.
Last year they were called upon late at night – working into the very early hours of the morning after working all day – to operate on casualties of a serious road traffic accident.
Some of those patients would have died had the team not been present.Bernadette Huyton said: “There are very little or no resources in some of the hospitals. At times this makes it difficult and frustrating for the team to treat some of the patients they see at the hospitals.
“Patients and children present with clubfoot – many are neglected, we see children with neglected burns, deformities similar to rickets, neglected fractures.
“Some of the patients are adults – it is a real eclectic mix in the outpatient clinics. Some a patients we see are patients we have treated before.
“To see the reaction when we arrive is astonishing and it is very rewarding to see the improvement in the patients we operate upon and the development of the skills of the local healthcare staff to deal with these disabling conditions.
“We are always looking for more volunteers, not only for the clinical work we do overseas but also for fundraising on which our projects depend.”
The team will be in Malawi for two weeks. Details, visit www.feetfirstworldwide.com