In the central activities area at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport, Katie Abraham moved gracefully across the familiar wood flooring. With an audience of patients, parents and staff looking on, the 13-year-old performed a ballet routine set to the Nutcracker Suite, her leaps and posture honed through years of dedicated practice. Returning to the floor to perform a tap routine, Katie’s feet fluttered with apparent ease.
For the Shreveport eighth grader, however, such precise positioning and movement did not come without challenges. In fact, Katie once walked the floors of the hospital as a patient – an experience that helped shape her path as an aspiring professional dancer.
“When Katie was a baby, I noticed her feet were turned a lot, like almost completely turned in,” Katie’s mother Amy recalled. “When she started walking, she was tripping over her feet and falling a lot. So, our pediatrician recommended Shriners Hospitals for Children — Shreveport.”
Upon the Abraham’s first visit, physicians diagnosed then 12-month-old Katie with internal tibial torsion with associated metatarsus adductus. The tibial torsion (inward turning of the tibia bones) resulted in Katie’s feet pointing inward (intoeing). Metatarsus adductus is a foot deformity in which the front portion of the foot turns inward while the heel does not. Katie’s medical team recommended several nonsurgical approaches, as is common with both conditions.
“Both tibial torsion and metatarsus adductus have the tendency to resolve over time, so physicians will often recommend a conservative approach to the conditions,” said Janay McKie, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at the Shreveport Shriners Hospital. “In most cases, observation and parent education is advised over any surgical intervention.”
Katie’s medical team recommended a similar conservative approach, with ballet suggested as a possible outlet for helping stretch and strengthen her lower legs and feet. Joining her first class prior to age 3, Katie immediately took to the world of dance. As her passion for dance grew, the positive impact of her efforts became increasingly apparent.
“You could just see her conditions getting better the more she danced,” Amy recalled. “When she first started dance the only way we could get her feet to turn out was to physically push them out. Over time, we really started noticing a difference, and on our last visit to the Shreveport Shriners Hospital they said she was looking great.”
Katie is now a member of the Royal Academy of Dance, an invitation-only program she attends in addition to her regular ballet classes. As she continues to work through the stages of the academy and her dance education, she hopes her passion will one day lead to college scholarships and a possible professional dance career. For now, her performance at the Shreveport Shriners Hospital stands as an achievement for which she has long aspired.
“I’ve just always loved it here,” Katie said. “It’s so much fun and such a fun environment. And I like seeing people smile because of how I dance – that makes me really happy.”