Four-year-old Elsie Moravek was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency (PFFD), meaning her left leg was deformed and considerably shorter than her right.
Doctors told her Michigan parents Jackie and Matt that they had three options – to amputate Elsie’s leg, fit a prosthesis or lengthen her limb by 11cm.
After much soul-searching, they opted to lengthen the tot’s leg, which would be done via a gruelling treatment reminiscent of medieval torture device ‘the rack.’
A few local doctors suggested amputation, and we considered it because the leg lengthening process is so difficult to endure," Jackie told The Mirror.
"We asked ourselves if we were being cruel to put our daughter through this and whether it was worth it.
"But we knew it was the right decision. We wanted Elsie to have the best life possible."
After a six-hour operation reconstructing her knee, ankle and hip, Elsie was finally able to walk at 21 months.
She was fitted with a prosthetic foot, which bridged the gap between her real foot and the floor.
Then last August, Jackie and Matt sought the help of Baltimore-based Dr Shawn Standard, an expert in the leg-lengthening procedure. That lead to Jackie and Elsie relocating to Baltimore for four months, leaving behind Matt and their older child, six-year-old Mila.
During surgery, Elsie’s femur and tibia were surgically split apart and fitted with an external fixator device, with ten pins piercing through her skin, muscle and bone.
Three times a day, Jackie had to manually turn screws to pull apart her daughter's femur and tibia a millimetre a day, preventing the break from healing each time.
New bone, muscle and skin grew in its place as the leg gradually lengthened by 11cm over four months.
The treatment meant little Elsie was on constant pain medication.
“I felt very helpless. I was very pleased with her progress but it was hard to see her in pain and crying,” Jackie said.
"I would have to put my mum hat on and push through it because I knew what the end result would be."
Now, Elsie’s legs are even. But as her left limb still has a growth deficiency, her legs will grow out of sync again.
She’ll need another procedure to lengthen her left leg by a further 10cm once she reaches her full height.
“We wanted to give her the best life possible,” she said. “That means she won’t need a prosthetic or to get her leg amputated so she can do everything other girls her age are capable of.”
“Elsie was in constant pain and I missed my eldest daughter’s first day of school because I was in Baltimore. We made a lot of sacrifices for this but every single one of them was worth it.”
SHARE if you feel for this brave tot and her family.