Girl, 15, 'All Smiles' After Surgery to Correct Upside-Down Feet

Jingle Luis, 15, who traveled from the Philippines to New York for corrective foot surgery, is recovering nicely, according to medical officials Friday.

Born with feet so clubbed they twist backward and upside down, she had to use crutches her whole life to hobble on what should be the tops of her feet.

The surgery took place on Thursday at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.

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"Jingle Luis had a good sleep overnight and ate a big breakfast," said Helene Guss, public relations manager for Montefiore. "She and her mom are all smiles this morning. They are both thrilled with how well she is feeling today."

Jingle is expected to be released from the medical center within a few days, Guss said. She will then go through physical therapy in the next month, which will consist of slowly rotating her feet until she can walk normally.

"I am so happy with the team of doctors, nurses and therapists," said Jingle's mom, Jasmine.

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Jingle's case is more severe than those usually seen by doctors in industrialized countries.

"Generally speaking, with modern technology, it doesn't get to this point," said Dr. Terry Amaral, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who will perform the surgery at Children's Hospital at Montefiore.

Clubfoot is a relatively common deformity, occurring in about one in 1,000 births. Children are usually treated in infancy with casts or braces that gradually bring the feet into correct alignment. The condition becomes harder to treat if it is not corrected early on.

Amaral said Jingle's case was complicated by the fact that her clubfoot was associated with spina bifida, a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings.

He said doctors who saw Jingle as a baby thought that her spina bifida would shorten her life span and prevent her from walking, so they did not treat the clubfoot.

"They felt it wasn't worth managing because of the life expectancy, so they decided to leave it alone," Amaral said.

But Jingle's spina bifida is relatively mild. Her bladder and bowel functions are impaired, but she has normal intelligence and can move her feet and legs.

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Jingle came to the attention of Montefiore after Dr. Randall Owen, a head and neck surgeon, traveled to the Philippines in 2003 on a mission trip organized by the Tennessee-based Christian Medical and Dental Association.

Owen saw Jingle there but could not treat her clubfoot.

"She needs a multidisciplinary team," he said. "It was nothing we could do on a two-week mission trip."

Jingle and her mother arrived in New York on April 17. The treatment, which doctors are providing pro bono, will consist of surgery Thursday to insert screws into the bones of Jingle's feet. The screws will be attached to scaffold-like devices that will stabilize her feet while the screws are turned bit by bit.

"Her bones are a little deformed, but most of it comes from the tight soft tissues in the inner part of her feet," Amaral said. He estimated that it would take a month to rotate the feet a few degrees at a time.

The scaffolding will then be replaced by casts, and then by braces Amaral expects Jingle to wear for about a year.

"And then, eventually, regular shoes," he said.

Jingle and her mother will stay with a friend in Bergenfield, N.J., during the treatment.

Jingle's father is a corn farmer; her mother sells farm-raised fish door to door, carrying her wares on her head.

Jingle has other career goals. "I think a doctor or a nurse," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.