Little girl who spent the first two years of her life with her legs in a harness and casts at University Hospital Southampton is the inspiration behind a new book called ‘Athena’s Magic Trousers.’
A LITTLE girl who spent the first two years of her life with her legs in a harness and casts is the inspiration behind a new book called Athena’s Magic Trousers.
Athena Phillips from Ringwood was only two weeks old when doctors at University Hospital Southampton (UHS) discovered she had hip dysplasia.
The congenital condition stops the ball and socket joints of the hip developing properly, and if left untreated can lead to a permanent limp and limited activity.
But Athena and her parents were lucky as UHS is a world centre of excellence for hip dysplasia. She was treated with a special harness and eventually had an operation to help remedy the condition.
Now at the age of eight she has a love of sports including paddleboarding.
Mum Alexa wrote the book with the aim of helping other children diagnosed with the condition and their families, with copies of it now being given free to patients being treated at UHS.
An English teacher, Alexa said: “At first, it’s quite daunting seeing your child in a spica cast, but as soon as you realise your baby is happy and comfortable it’s much easier to see the end goal.
“That’s where the idea of the story came from – it’s simply not as scary as it all looks. We called them Athena’s Magic Trousers as they were there to make everything better, and I want to reassure other children and families that everything will be ok, as no matter how many times you are told what’s going to happen, nothing really prepares you for it.”
Hip dysplasia known as DDH affects approximately three out of every 1,000 babies. In most cases, the socket of the hip is too shallow to hold the femoral head in place; but in severe cases, like Athena’s, the femur is dislocated and is completely out of the socket.
Specialists use a Pavlik harness, a device which keeps the hip stable so that the bones can develop properly.
Athena’s treatment was made more difficult after she suffered from a femoral nerve palsy – a trapped nerve that leads to loss of movement.
She underwent an operation carried out by Dr Alex Aarvold, a consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, and was then placed in a spica cast which covers both legs, waist, and abdomen.
Consultants at UHS treat approximately 100 patients a year.
Athena now has an annual hip check-up in a clinic at the NIHR Southampton Clinical Research Facility at UHS.
Mr Aarvold said: “Athena is doing brilliantly, and it is such a joy to see her charging around normally. Without this treatment she would be limping, getting worsening pain, and be limited in all these activities that she now excels at.
“The operation though is a major thing to go through, for child and parent alike.
“This book gives such a beautiful child-friendly description of the surgical journey – far better than I can ever describe it to families.”
The book is illustrated by local artist Sarah Downes.