Kootenai Prosthetics & Orthotics

Braced for Success

Numa Poché

“I used to get teased about wearing braces when I was little, but not so much anymore. Besides, I have great friends who stand up for me if anybody’s giving me a hard time.”

Numa Poché credits family, friends and her orthotist, Willette Schmidt, for helping her have a positive attitude about wearing ankle-foot orthoses, but the outgoing 12-year-old comes by a lot of that attitude naturally. Her pink, snakeskin-patterned ankle-foot orthoses make an “in your face” statement and she’s not shy about showing them off.

Numa was born with a congenital deformity called club foot. It is a common birth defect, occurring in about one in every 1,000 live births. Without treatment, people often appear to walk on their ankles or on the sides of their feet. With treatment, which can include bracing and surgery, the condition can be ameliorated or reversed. Many notable people have been born with one or both feet in "clubbed" condition, including figure-skater Kristi Yamaguchi, soccer star Mia Hamm, NFL Cornerback and Heisman Award winner Charles Woodson and Tom Dempsey of the New Orleans Saints.

Numa is a bilaterial clubfoot patient, a condition that is common for approximately 50% of clubfoot cases. At birth, her femur had to be reversed and her feet had to be flipped and rotated. She’s undergone 13 surgeries in her young life and was in a wheelchair from the second to the fifth grade. That wheelchair was a little hard to navigate through the snow when Numa and her family moved to Kellog when she was seven years old. Now days she gets around with ease on her braced feet.

The Kellogg Middle School student loves social studies and science and has hopes to combine both with a career in science research when she grows up. A social studies unit on Central America and a project on Barbados sparked her curiosity about faraway places, and her science classes have introduced her to some of the world’s strangest animals.

“I really like the weird ones,” she says, “like the aye-aye. It’s similar to the lemur.”

Camping, fishing and biking with friends and family round out the lively teen’s life. “But not videos and texting,” she says. “Sure I text and watch videos, but I’m not constantly doing those things.”

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