Girvan mother pledges help to hip awareness

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A Girvan mum is pledging her support to families affected by a rare hip abnormality that saw her toddler undergo three operations and confined in casts for nearly two years.

Baby’s first steps are a momentous and joyful occasion for any family, but for wee Billie Smith toddling about quickly became cause for concern.

At just over one year old, Billie began to step out on her own two feet – but it soon became apparent to parents Emma and Alan that something was not right.

Mum Emma, 31, said she and fiance Alan quickly noticed a slight limp in Billie’s stride, and a tendency to bear all her weight on one leg. And when friends and family picked up on Billie’s unusual “waddle” they decided to seek medical advice.

Referred to an orthopaedic surgeon at Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock, Billie was diagnosed with developmental hip dysplasia – a condition which means the thigh bone is not held firmly in its socket, creating a looseness in the hip that can worsen as a child grows and becomes more active.

It was then that Emma and Alan were put in touch with Steps, a UK charity supporting children and adults affected by a lower limb conditions, and, through a mutual friend, with a family in Prestwick whose child had been diagnosed with the same condition as Billie.

She said their support proved invaluable when, two months after Billie’s diagnosis, it became evident she needed surgery, despite initial hopes her hip would correct itself with up to 18 months in a spica cast.

“We were devastated, shocked and confused,” said Emma. “It was quite isolating and scary, and just to talk to other people and get practical advice on things like nappy changing when your child is in a cast down both legs was great.”

Just over a year since Billie’s first operation – and only three months since her last – Billie is finally free of her casts and thriving.

But her experience has inspired mum Emma to become a support contact for local families battling with her daughter’s condition.

“I was delighted to be asked,” she said. “There is a whole list of things that you don’t consider to begin with, so the things you learn from a family that has already been through it are invaluable.”

This Baby Hip Health Awareness Week, STEPS are reminding parents and health professionals of the vital need to check babies’ hips during the first few weeks of life to prevent unnecessary pain and disability in later years.

To find out more visit the charity’s website.