Our ABS Story

BIRTH – January 1993
I had wanted to get pregnant for a few years and had been on fertility medication prior to conceiving. I was very sick throughout the pregnancy but extremely happy. I would dance (as well as my bulging body would allow) and sing “Whoa-oa-oa! I feel good, do-be-do-be-do-do, I knew that I would, now….So good, so good, I got you.” Although I read the “What to Expect…” series and we went to pre-natal classes we weren’t prepared – I didn’t even have my bag packed!

I had a very easy labour. The doctor raced me through the hospital in a wheelchair and called out “No time to register her, this baby’s coming now!” A short while later the doctor examined our new baby. The doctor calmly said that there was a little webbing between some of the baby’s fingers that a plastic surgeon would need to “snip” and his feet turned in a “bit”. Steve and I looked at each other and exchanged a knowing “Ohhhhh”. Steve explained that his two nephews were born with mild clubfoot and his Mom’s foot turned in slightly causing her to limp. We hadn’t even thought about this genetic-link during the pregnancy.

When the baby was given to me to nurse Evan was all bundled up and I don’t think I even looked at his hand or feet. I was so focused on nursing. Once settled into our hospital room I un-swaddled my baby and saw the severity of his clubfeet and hand difference. Evan’s feet were both turned right up the inside of his legs and three fingers on his left hand were joined together and tiny which was, we later learned, caused by Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS).

Family History of Clubfoot:

Evan kicked off cast

Evan’s Paternal Grandmother had one foot that turned slightly and she walked with a limp. This was not recognized as something that needed treatment, she was simply instructed to “walk straight.”

Evan’s two cousins (on Dad’s side) were both born with a mild clubfoot that was easily corrected without surgery.

We aren’t sure if Evan’s clubfeet are genetic or not as amniotic band syndrome is not genetic and has a correlation with clubfeet. Evan’s younger brother Elliot does not have clubfoot or ABS.

In this picture – Evan (July 1993) with one cast on and one cast off. After 6 months of serial casting note how turned in the feet still are.

Medical Treatments

Clubfoot Serial Casting:

The morning after Evan was born treatment by serial plaster casting began. Casts were changed weekly, then bi-weekly, then monthly. The plaster casts had to be soaked in water and removed prior to the plaster clinic appointment.  This was a frustrating and exhausting experience for new parents. Evan was a very happy baby in spite of it all.

By the time he was six months old Evan was able to somehow flex his foot in the cast and then kick the cast right off. See some pictures below with a missing cast. Evan’s casts were below the knee. It is now known that a better result can be achieved by full leg casts and by not removing the casts the night before an appointment.

Hand Surgeries:

Evan’s surgery for clubfoot was delayed slightly because he first had plastic surgery on his hand. In Evan’s case, Amniotic Band Syndrome affected his left hand the pinky finger, ring finger and middle finger were webbed together, smaller than normal and missing some joints.

Evan had two surgeries for his hand the first on August 12, 1993 and the second on July 29, 1996 by Dr. Howard Clarke at the Hospital for Sick Children.

We were on a wait list for the second hand surgery. One day I noticed Evan using his paper scissors to try to separate his fingers. I called the hospital right away and they put us on a cancellation list.  The surgery happened the next week.

The second hand surgery was very hard for us. We were used to the routine and we thought it was going to be the easiest of the surgeries (at least on us). However, we started to worry when the surgery took two hours longer than expected. This operation was to separate the index and ring fingers. The ring finger had already been separated from the pinky finger and now we discovered that Evan had no major arteries in the ring finger and he might lose it — the next 24 hrs were crucial. I remember around 11:30 p.m. that night praying over Evan in the hospital room. After a while I checked Evan’s hand but I didn’t trust my own judgement, so it wasn’t until the nurse came in at 12:00 that I knew that God had answered my prayer and caused blood to flow to that finger.

Evan now has independent use of his fingers and plays the piano and guitar (left handed). Although the ring finger is always colder than the rest and his Mom always makes sure he wears mittens for fear of frostbite.

Clubfoot Surgeries:

On October 18th, 1993 one foot was operated on and seven days later, on October 25, the other foot. Following the surgery, Evan had plaster casts and then on January 3, 1994, just prior to his 1st birthday, the casts came off! What a joy it was to bathe Evan without worrying about casts!! After the casts were off Evan began crawling.

When the post-surgery casts came off Evan was referred to the Orthotics department of the Hospital for Sick Children. Custom made Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFO’s) were made for him. We were also given a set of exercises to try to keep his feet flexible and aid the healing of the scars.

On May 13, 1994 when Evan was sixteen months old, his brother Elliot was born. Elliot doesn’t have clubfeet or amniotic band syndrome.

One of the most memorable days of our lives would have to be August 11th, 1994 when Evan took his first steps on his own. While Daddy watched, he took his first steps (of course Mommy was in the laundry room).

Hernia Surgery:

As if four surgeries, and far too many casts to count, weren’t enough, the week before Evan started Kindergarten he was operated on for a hernia. The only problem with this was that Evan was a seasoned pro and didn’t think he wanted to go through the doors into the operating room. After thinking about it for awhile he passed on the wagon ride and walked in on his own. Before the age of 5, Evan had 5 operations.

Buiding Self-Confidence:

Evan is very accepting of others and is self-confident. He experienced some school-yard teasing such as,”your hand is weird” and “you run funny” (and likely other things that Mom doesn’t know about). Evan responded with a strong assured voice, that it’s a good thing that he can run at all.

From the beginning, Evan’s Dad and I always explained to people about his hand and feet. We believe that people are more accepting if they understand and aren’t made to feel embarrassed about asking. Evan is really a remarkable person who is well liked and accepted by all who know him.

Evan’s Feet age eight:

Underdeveloped cafe muscles
x-ray of Evan’s feet February 2007

I’m so sad that we didn’t know about the Ponseti method for treating clubfeet. Because of the surgical approach, Evan will have life-long issues with his feet.

  • Evan has underdeveloped calf muscles
  • toeing in
  • his heels are slightly rotated
  • he has loose ligaments so his knees are double-jointed – he needs to be careful not to hyperextend his knees
  • he rolls over on the side of his right foot when he steps
  • he has a significant leg length discrepancy – shoes are modified to accommodate this
  • if he has pain we never know as he doesn’t talk about it and never complains

Reflections on the Surgeries:

The stress of having your baby face surgery is hard to describe. The Surgeries were all hard on us, each for different reasons:

  • The first surgery on his hand was at Sick Kids – I was “a mess” according to Evan’s Dad. For one thing, I was nursing and it was so hard to not feed my crying baby when my breasts were engorged. He was so little and had never been away from me for so long.
  • Just prior to Evan’s first clubfoot surgery my breast milk started to dry up as I was pregnant with Elliot. When the surgery was over they told me to try nursing him anyway but Evan pushed me away and would only go to Daddy. I had to fight with the nurses at the hospital to bring me a cot during the day. We shared a room with a newborn jaundice baby. That night Evan stayed wide awake and I was an exhausted pregnant Mom.
  • The second hand surgery was very hard for us as Evan nearly lost his finger.
  • The Hernia seemed like such a small thing after all the other things Evan (and his parents) had been through but he was older so it was all a lot harder on him. It was done as day surgery and he would have been better off if we had stayed overnight. He was sick in the car on the way home and we felt we had rushed away before he was ready to be moved. This is the surgery he remembers. Evan talks about a yellow cloud when they were putting him under anesthetic.


The reality is that there are some things Evan has to do differently or doesn’t do because of his feet and hand.

  • He plays a left-handed guitar so that his little fingers don’t have to do the cording (as he did naturally on a toy guitar when he was younger)
  • His piano teacher had to modify some fingering patterns
  • The Toronto Public Health Unit supplied an Occupational Therapist to work with Evan at school for a number of weeks to teach him how to type and modify keystrokes – He is now very fast!

36 thoughts on “Our ABS Story

  1. My son also had surgery for his hand at Shriners hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the United States. We had to wait until he was close to one year old. They like to wait until they’re old enough to safely have surgery. I don’t think there are any Shriners hospitals in India, but I know they sometimes do screenings in other countries.I would call them and ask where they suggest you look for care for your son. Good luck!

  2. My son had surgery in May to remove constriction banding and syndactyly correction (webbing from banding). He was 13 months actual, so only 11 months adjusted. He was over 2 months premature. He did excellent in recovery. He has scaring and the scar tissue has made his joints in one finger stiff, but we’re working on it 🙂

  3. Hi all,
    I had a baby in April, born with ABS. First time we noticed something was wrong was in the 28th week, when the doctor noticed some kind of growth on his left foot during the ultrasound exam. Nobody, but I mean NOBODY here (Dubrovnik, Croatia) could tell me what that was and why it had happened. They told me to wait until the baby was born and then we would see what to do. My Toma was born on April 23rd, with both his feet and hands affected by bands. He is almost five months now, and he has already had two surgeries, one on his right foot, where the growth was, and one on his right hand, where it was easier to release fingers. When he turns one, he will have another surgery, where his left hand fingers will be dealt with. Now, this one will be a lot more difficult because there will also be some skin transplantation, etc. I was very afraid at the beginning, since no one could tell us what that was ans whether it was dangerous or not, but now I am a lot calmer, having learnt what that actually is. The only thing I am afraid of are other kids in the kindergarten or school, because little kids can be very mean to somebody who is different.. Other than that, Toma is a very happy baby, smiling ALL the time and because of that I hope he will not have problems fitting in 🙂

  4. Ruth, thank you so much for telling Evan’s story. Our 20 week ultrasound showed a clubfoot, possible syndactyly, and missing fingers. The doctor’s here were only looking for genetic causes (no bands were present in any ultrasound). My wife and I were very scared. I found your site when I was looking up congenital hand deformities and brought up the possibility of ABS to our genetic counselor. Because bands were not present in any of the ultrasounds, the doctors did not believe it was a viable diagnosis.
    Our daughter was born a month ago, she has a clubfoot, she is missing a finger on one hand (nub), and three fingers (2 partial and 1 nub) on the other that are currently connected. Because of my suggestion that it may have been ABS we were referred to a specialist three hours away who has been working with kids affected by ABS for a number of years. She confirmed it was ABS and showed us the constrictions on the unaffected fingers where the bands had been. Thank God for your site!! If we hadn’t even known to ask about ABS I have no idea what we’d be thinking or doing right now. Thank you so much for your time and effort in developing and maintaining this website!

  5. Thanks so much! Message me any time! We don’t have too many people we can talk to, since most people are blissfully unaware.

    1. I am a thirty-seven year old women who was born with ABS. I have my thumbs and my left pinky. All the rest of my fingers are shortened. Parents of children with ABS, please do not blame yourselves! It’s been hard at times, especially when I was growing up, kids can be cruel. People are going to stare and ask what happened, but honestly it doesn’t bother me today. My mom raised me to believe in myself, to have confidence, and to have faith! She taught me to be strong. I never once blamed her. My parents treated me like the rest of my siblings….I didn’t get special treatment and honestly I think that’s what made a difference in my life. They held me accountable for things and they believed in me. Growing up with ABS inspired me to become a special education teacher, I can relate to my student and being different. Teaching students with disabilities has been my pursuit in life. I honestly wouldn’t have made it this far in life if it wasn’t for my moms unconditinal love and guidence. Just be there for your kids and love them. That’s all my mom did and I think I turned out pretty darn special.

  6. At first i thought my husband and i were alone in this until i started researching ABS. I came across this site and it has helped me come to peace that there are parents who share the same worry…

    I know i shouldn’t blame anyone but some reason I just can’t help but to feel anger…

    It was my 28 week visit that the Doctor found something wrong with our baby boy…. It was when he asked us to wait and see his partner for a second opinion. He couldn’t seem to find the left hand….

    So the second doctor spontaneously diagnosed our son with a rare syndrome called Poland Syndrome at first. How is it possible? We did all blood testing that came out negative and no abnormalities to the chromosomes….We were then schedule with the maternal and fetal center for an MRI… The third doctor finally diagnosed our son with Amniotic band syndrome.

    My question is? Are there any parents who knows if there was a possibility this could’ve been detected earlier on and prevent him from losing his left hand? It was growing up until his wrist… It’s still a shock and i figure out what i did wrong? Even though it is said taht it has nothing to do with us mothers eating or doing anything wrong….

    Thank you for sharing your story. It means so much to know there are mothers who are strong and it makes me strong…

    1. First of all…You absolutely did not cause it. It’s accidental- just happens sometimes. From what I understand, it’s usually not very common to be able to diagnose from an ultrasound but they did see ours at 18 weeks and that is when they warned that our son could be born missing a limb. By the time I had him at 30 weeks- the amputation on his finger had already completely healed but nothing wrong with his legs, so I think it probably happened really early on. I think the amnion and chorion fuse around 10-12 weeks? So that is probably when it happened based on that theory. As a mom, you want to know why but there really isn’t one in this situation. I think it’s too risky usually and they only intervene if it’s threatening the life of the baby. Not sure though.

      1. Thank you so much for your fast response. You have become someone I look up to. Now, the next thing is how I do stay strong and keep him confident of himself as he grows up? I know there will be many obstacles to overcome along his childhood..

        1. I’m probably not the best person to answer that one as I’m navigating the waters with you. My son is 13 months. But, I plan to just love him and teach him that he is perfect and wonderful just the way he is. There is no such thing as “normal” everyone is different in one way or another. We have surgery on the 18th of this month for his banding, so a full arm cast should be interesting. But, he’s overcome a LOT already. He was born at 30 weeks with IUGR due to severe preeclampsia and only weighed 2lbs 8oz. So, I’m just going to remind him of how far he’s come and what an absolute miracle he is. ♡

          1. I’ll keep your baby boy in my prayers and hope for a fast and safe recovery. Thank you for the encouraging words.

        2. My son is 21 and was born with ABS that affected his fingers. I had four ultrasounds before he was born and not one of them detected a problem with his fingers, it was my husband who discovered it when he was born. What I found with him as a child is that he was determined to do everything himself, almost like he needed to prove himself. Children learn to live with what they have and sometimes defy the odds and amaze us. My son was an outstanding athlete in school playing ice hockey and lacrosse. He made the varsity teams his freshman year and won some awards throughout his athletic career. He was the first kid in the locker room to tie his skates. There will be times when you will be sad that this happened to your son and you will question why, let these feelings wash over you in quiet times it’s okay to have these feelings. But then look at your child and see how amazing he is, never underestimate his abilities some days he may shock you with what he can do.

          1. Thank you for the encouragement… I love that there are so many strong people that share the same story as Ashton and mine. It just amazes me when I hear stories like yours: these children of ours are quite wonderful in everything they can do that we were afraid they couldn’t. Thank you for sharing your story…

  7. My son was born with ABS on his left hand (syndactyly- webbing) & constriction bands. His middle finger in his right hand had an intrauterine amputation of the tip (basically no fingernail). We just had our first appointment at Shriner’s for surgery consultation. He is almost 13 months now.

  8. Hi,my kid is also born with ABS and club foot left …we are so much worried as she has undergone many castings and the doctor is recommending for amniotic bands release surgeory and she is 1yr old…as parents we are very much tensed about this…can u please suggest best hospital for second opinion and we stay in India.

    1. Plzz hlp me also if u have undergone any treatmnts to ur kid as my baby also affected with this situation

      1. Guys plz help me out .how to and which hospital is gud to cure this treatment and which country we can undergo this treatment

        1. My son had his surgery done at the Shrine Hospital in Springfield, Mass, they were fabulous.

          1. Thank u fr reply.. Kd. Plz tell me in detail about this surgery and which country this hospital is located as i stay in india.

          2. My baby is just 1mnth old .her left hand fingers r missing n thumb is short ..what to do . In india doctors said nothing can be done now as she is 1mnth child..

        1. His surgery was done in 2002 when he was 8 years old. He had a z-plasty (I’m not sure of the spelling but this is what it sounded like) on the middle and ring finger of his right hand. He also had webbing between those two fingers repaired. He is missing fingers on his left hand but he has never had surgery on this. This was done in the United States. Good luck!

          1. Thank u very much guys fr replyn to my post.
            My babys fingers r missing on left hand is thr any surgery possible on this hand …
            If possible when n where it can be done

  9. I was born with Amniotic band syndrome. i was born with my middle finger on my right hand halved and joint to my ring finger which has a fused knuckle. We believe my knuckle is like that because it has the rest of my other finger infused in it. Mum and dad just taught me to except it and that it was ok. I’ve always just been happy with it when other kids asked me about it I’d just tell them that i was born like it. Some kids would say ur the girl with the missing finger eh ? Can I look at it and I would just say yea and show them. I know mine isn’t as bad as Evan’s but I have grown up to think its special. I’m 17 now and I think it’s special and I like it.

  10. I couldn’t help myself but to cry because I relate to the Evans story. My boy was also born with Club feet and ABS. He is now 11 months old. His three fingers on his left hand were joined together. His left foot has only two toes: the big toe and the little toe. He had the band around his leg. I was afraid that his leg might get amputated when after he was born but he was lucky because the band didn’t damage his leg. You could see the bone inside and his leg was swollen, very swollen.

  11. Just today we have found out that our little girl who is now 19 months has been given a diagnoses ABS with no fingers on her left hand but just a tiny little thumb. She is doing so well. Am so happy that I found this site. And other than talking to a doctor have been able to understand a little more just buy reading on here. Thank you

    1. I’m glad that the site was helpful for you. Feel free to submit your daughter’s story to the site too.

      1. Ruth – Thanks so much for keeping this site going. I’m a regular on the FB pages but I really like this as a source of outreach for newcomers. If you ever need any help with this, please let me know.

        1. Thanks Steve it is a big help when others jump in and add comments on stories and on the Guestbook. If you could check in from time to time and respond to questions that would be a great support.

  12. I appreciate your story, and I can relate to almost every emotion you described. We went from plaster cast, to achilles tendon being cut, and now bracing. My daughter is 5. We did not know a thing from (amniotic band, causing club foot, syndactyly fingers and toes, and causing the pelvic not to grow due to the bands) until she was born. Did you see anything in the ultrasound prior?

  13. I am a 23 old mother, having a baby with ABS . How can i build up his confident level. Pls help me

    1. Hi Shanu,

      My advice, for what it’s worth, is that you show him not to hide his birth difference, so he won’t be ashamed. You educate people in his life about ABS so they aren’t embarrassed to ask questions. When he goes to school encourage him to show and tell or do school presentations about ABS so his school friends know about it. And most of all love him and discipline him without putting him down, that will teach him to love himself. You’ll do fine.

      All the best, Ruth

      1. You wrote a very long time ago….I hope your lil one is doing Great. I was born with ABS, and yes kids will be kids. There will always be rude people. But I try to remind myself how lucky I am that only my fingers and ankle/foot were affected, and not somethong lifr threatening. As a child my parents didn’t spoil me or treat my any differently than my siblings. I had chores and expectations, and they kept reminding me there were a lot of people in harder situations, “so don’t feel sorry for youself” they told me. They also taught me to be open and share my experience, because as someone else mentioed, if people know they are less likely to be judgemental.
        I thought you may benifit from hearing who someone has lived with it..and an example from what my truely amazing parents taught me! Also your lil one WILL be able to follow their dreams! I am a teacher, can play a few songs on the piano, and I type,,, also I have two awesome children! Best of wishes.

  14. What a wonderful, dedicated and loving Mother Evan has. That you started this site to help educate others is commendable as well. I want to personally thank you in that born in 1963, I now have a medical name for my 1/2 foot. It is a very deep place inside a Mother where the strength to endure the hardships of our children come from. I would say that Evan was handpicked for you and know that you have the support and admiration of many Mothers across the web. So so proud of mine and work eagerly every day to emulate the wisdom and grace she lived and taught by example. Noble Mothers unite! Prayers2u

    1. PS…I just noticed that Evan and I share a birthday. (Jan 19). I’ve got 30 years on him tho. So he’s my children’s ages. Now I can relate to your story on ABS and Motherhood even more. I can’t help but say I was led to your site with divine guidance…my Momma’s smilin’ down on me today! Did I not JUST write noble Mothers unite?! Thank you again, I am sure you put selfless time and effort into this site. Blessings

  15. Thank you so much for this site. I have never heard of this before. I’m an RN now working in my hospital’s referral center and when I came upon a referral from a small clinic requesting assistance for a newborn I needed to find out what I was working on! Your son seems very talented and I think it’s great that your family is able to see the positive side of challenges.

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