Miracle Harewood and Raven Harris are only seven years old, but they are a long way from home. The children have left their native Barbados to seek treatment for a rare condition that causes severely bowed legs.
As the News & Advance reports, Miracle and Raven both suffer from Blount’s disease, a condition that causes a curvature of the shin bone (or tibia). Though it can be corrected with braces if caught early, in Miracle and Raven, the malformation is so advanced that only surgery and prolonged treatment can help.
The girls’ bowed legs make it impossible for them to enjoy simple childhood pleasures like running and playing with friends or even shopping with mom.
“She runs a lot at school and stuff, but after she has to have a time out,” Catherine Harris, Raven’s mother, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “It’s a lot of pain to walk and to run and to stand.”
According to Harris, Raven’s legs didn’t seem abnormally bowed as a small child, but that they started to get worse when she was about two or three years old. By the time she was six, she knew that Raven needed surgery, but getting the procedure done on their small island would have been extremely expensive. Miracle’s legs also started to bow around age two.
Desperate to find a way to help their daughters, both families even tried an old folk remedy that required burying the little girl up to her waist in sand for hours each day.
“Everybody said you have to carry her to the beach in the mornings and bury her,” Natalie Harewood told the Times Dispatch. “We started doing it.”
Dr. Chester H. Sharps, an expert on Blount’s explains that the condition is actually an “acceleration” of normal childhood growth. All babies, says Dr. Sharps, are born bowlegged, but it’s difficult to see because they don’t stand at that age. By about eighteen months, he explains, the legs straighten out, only to go somewhat knock-kneed for several years before straightening again in a kind of “natural rhythm” to leg growth.
Blount’s most often occurs in children who walk early or are a bit overweight. As Raven’s and Miracle’s parents recall, it was especially difficult to address that problem of weight as the girl’s bowed legs made movement painful, leading to a more sedentary lifestyle, which made it even harder to lose weight.
Thankfully, with the help of the World Pediatric Project, Raven and Miracle were brought to Richmond, Virginia for treatment. Because of the severity of the bowing, the girls will need surgery to cut the tibia and fibula and reset the damaged growth plate at the top of the leg bone. After the surgery, the girls will have to wear special frames on their legs that will support the legs and hold them in place while the bones heal.
Because of the delicate nature of the frame correction, both Raven and Miracle will have to remain in the U.S. for the four to six months it will take to finish healing. The mothers say they are incredibly grateful for the help that will make it possible for their daughters to walk and run normally. Catherine Harris says that she’ll be by her daughter’s side the entire time.
“I just want to be here for her,” said Harris, explaining that her daughter is excited about the surgery, but also nervous enough to need her mom. “I can see fright in her face.”