A mother whose family has been accused of incest after she was born with 12 toes and webbed feet is now faced with the prospect of having both feet amputated as a result of the condition.
Disabled mother, Laura Booze, 26, of Millersport, Ohio, was born with polydactyly and syndactyly; conditions in which a person is born with extra fingers or toes and two or more numbers are fused together, respectively.
Laura was born with an extra large toe on each foot; however, the bones in it were not fully developed. She also had almost completely fused fingers on one hand, between her middle and ring fingers. Doctors were shocked at her case because it was nothing they had ever seen before.
Painful: Laura Booze, 26, from Ohio, was born with 12 toes and webbed feet from two conditions: polydactyly and syndactyly
Shockingly: a baby’s mother, pictured as a baby, says her parents were accused of incest due to her unique appearance – putting her in pain for much of her life
In 1994, when she was only a year old, Laura underwent her first surgery to separate her fingers. A year later, they started operating on her feet, removing the inner big toe from each foot, but this eventually became a mistake because Laura was unable to properly wear socks or shoes.
Doctors originally planned to remove the outer big toe instead so as not to affect her balance. Laura’s outer big toe was later surgically moved.
When she was four years old, they had to perform her finger separation surgery again because the scar tissue was very tight and stunted the growth of her fingers. It turned out that her fingers were very difficult to separate because they shared almost one fingernail and one bone.
In 1999, when she was six years old, they decided she didn’t need any of her big toes, leaving only four toes on each foot. However, three years later, she started experiencing a lot of chronic pain due to underdeveloped bones in her feet after her toe amputations.
Doctors eventually removed the underdeveloped extra bones, but hesitated to do so for fear of worsening Laura’s condition.
In 2014, the sides and balls of Laura’s feet started to break spontaneously, forcing the doctors to intervene again. Laura was given the opportunity to reconstruct or amputate her feet.
Although she was open to either, because of the severity of the pain she had, they decided to reconstruct first; so in 2015, five plates and 15 screws were placed in her right foot to restructure it. The surgery was structurally successful, but Laura got painful nerve pain.
Despite her negative experiences, she was determined to continue reconstructing her left foot in February 2016. Seven weeks later, she discovered she was eight weeks pregnant with her now three-year-old son, Noah.
After choosing to remove some of the metal from her foot, Laura’s doctor refused to perform any more surgeries. The next operation she will undergo is a bilateral amputation, which she has now come to terms with.
Laura admits she was bullied when she was growing up with her circumstances. She was labeled a ‘freak’ and a ‘duck’. Children suggested that her family was incestuous. Despite a lot of pain, she feels stronger than ever before. She now wants to change someone else’s strength from her pain.
Agony: Laura had her first surgery at the age of one and at the age of six she had both big toes removed on each foot
Complications: In 2014, the sides and balls of Laura’s feet started to break spontaneously, forcing the doctors to intervene again
Angry: Doctors decided they had two choices – to either reconstruct Laura’s feet or amputate them – and in 2015 they decided to try the first option hoping to save her feet
“It was my normal one; Being in a wheelchair a lot and living a life in pain made me quite difficult. It was all I knew, so I don’t remember feeling a lot of self-pity, ”said Laura.
“But I was bullied a lot because of my feet and it affected my confidence as a child – although I didn’t think this would be a problem as an adult. Now I feel that my disabilities have ruined the life I envisioned myself.
‘As a child I was called a’ freak ‘and a’ duck ‘. People suggested that my family was incestuous.
“I had a lot of dreams and was very lively and ambitious before my condition deteriorated. After 2014 the wind blew from me.
“Living in constant pain changes you, it makes you selfish and entitled because you are constantly desperate to manipulate any situation that would cause you the least pain.
“It’s a siren that blares in my ears all the time and I’m the only one who hears it, but I have to function as if there’s no chaos in my body. The siren is not only incredible pain, it is my sorrow. Inside I wait for the person I once was.
“I became unrecognizable and lived in darkness for the past five years. I recently feel like I am at a turning point, I hope that despite my suffering I can continue to find new hobbies and new joy.
“There must be more meaning than just pain, which is what urges me to know that it is not for nothing. One day, my pain will be someone else’s strength.
“I had three surgeries on my hand together, eight surgeries on my right foot, six surgeries on my left foot, and one surgery on each of my calves.
Silver Lining: Seven weeks after she had her second foot reconstruction, Laura discovered she was pregnant with her son, Noah
Obstacles: Since her second foot reconstruction, Laura has been in pain – and now she sees the prospect of her feet being amputated
‘I gained a lot of weight because of depression, medication and just not being able to move a lot.
‘I also lose function in my feet and basic sensations. That part is kind of scary because I move my feet in my head, but they won’t move completely, I won’t know until I trip or fall.
“It has influenced my motherhood in mostly positive ways; my pain humbles me and reminds me to further improve my character, since my character is my greatest reflection, not my physical capabilities.
Angry: As a child, Laura – pictured with a friend – says she’s been called a “freak.”
“I do what other mothers do; I just have to do it differently. I find a way to always adjust every little thing to give me comfort, but not to hinder my involvement with my son.
“The hardest part of my trip was the pain. I can handle deformed and “ugly” feet. But the pain is unbearable. The pain limits me in so many ways.
‘As a child I had to stop exercising, gymnastics and dancing. At the age of 20 I gave up my photography and role as a babysitter. I couldn’t do anything in my spare time because I was sobbing in bed from the pain.
“I had to stop going to the gym. I lost my job because of the pain. I have to keep my feet up all day so they don’t touch anything. Every sensation is unbearable – even the sheets on my bed can be unbearable.
“I can’t wear socks or shoes – just single-strap sandals that don’t hit too much of my foot. The pain has taken away much of my independence. I can’t do what other 26 year olds do. ‘
Laura wants to prove that having a disability shouldn’t dampen your mood and her ultimate goal in life is to be the best mom she can be.
Difficulty: “I can’t wear socks or shoes – just single-strap sandals that don’t hit too much of my foot. The pain took away much of my independence, “said Laura
Looking Ahead: Laura says it’s her dream to be a good mom to her son Noah and focus on the things she can control, not the aspects of her life that are causing her pain
“I just want to be a good mother. I don’t know what my future looks like, right now it feels kind of hopeless to the extent that I’m going with the pain, ”she said.
“But I can’t control my pain or how it limits me. I can control how I use it and how I present disabilities to my son.
“So my dream? Be a good mother, somehow reduce my pain and serve others without restraint. I come from the mental darkness I hid and I want to use my pain to help others with whatever they are going through.
‘Being an inspiration has been my motivation for years, this will make sense someday if I use it for the right thing.
2 Corinthians 1 tells us that we are suffering to help those who suffer. I firmly believe that if we don’t help others, all our pain will be sin.
“I was very angry with God for a long time. I was angry with my situation and felt it was unfair. Being angry has got me nowhere. I had to come to God with an open heart and receive his grace. This is my biggest regret during my disability – eating my anger.
“Be real. Allow yourself to feel how you feel, suppressing your emotions or suffering will not help you or anyone else. Check with someone you trust or a therapist.
For a long time, I thought that I should remain positive for everyone to inspire them. That eventually caused me to drown mentally.
“You don’t have to be anyone’s superhero, just be yourself and people will be drawn to your rawness. Being raw makes you recognizable and we all just want to feel that someone is getting us. ‘