Image: Terry Amaral, Jingle Luis
Richard Drew  /  AP
Jingle Luis, a 15-year-old girl from the Philippines who was born with severely clubbed feet, takes her first steps in her first pair of shoes with the help of Dr. Terry Amaral at New York's Montefiore Medical Center.
updated 7/2/2008 7:17:47 PM ET 2008-07-02T23:17:47

A Filipino teenager who came to New York so doctors could perform surgery to untwist her severely clubbed feet took her first unaided steps Wednesday in pink and white sneakers — the first shoes she has ever worn.

"I'm very happy," Jingle Luis said with a smile. "It was exciting."

The 15-year-old girl arrived at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx in May with her mother for surgery and follow-up treatment.

She had never been able to walk on her own because she was born with feet so clubbed they twisted backward and upside down, forcing her to hobble on the tops of her feet with the help of crutches.

On Wednesday, doctors took off her post-surgical casts and replaced them with special support braces.

Then came the moment for which she had waited a lifetime: She slipped her feet into her first real footwear and took several full, long strides. Slideshow: Clubfooted teen ready for surgery

The surgery, which the hospital performed for free, involved inserting screws into the bones of her feet and turning them bit by bit to straighten them out.

When the pins were taken out, the feet were straight, but casts were put on for several weeks to keep them that way.

Dr. Terry Amaral, her surgeon, expects Jingle to wear the braces for about a year.

Jingle's mother was beaming.

"This is a miracle. I am very thankful to God," said Jasmine Luis, who makes a living selling fish door to door. Jingle's father is a corn farmer.

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Jingle's case came to the attention of Montefiore after a staff physician traveled there in 2003 with a Christian relief mission.

Her disability was more severe than anything doctors in industrialized countries usually see.

While 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.

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 her spina bifida would shorten her life span and prevent her from walking, so they did not treat the clubfoot.

But Jingle's condition turned out go be relatively mild.

"She's essentially a normal child," Amaral said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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