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Pediatric surgeon creates artistic cast drawings so her patients would wake up to something nice

Felicity Fishman, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, is making a positive impact on her young patients by drawing colorful images on their casts.

Pediatric surgeon creates artistic cast drawings so her patients would wake up to something nice
Image Source: Getty Images/Shriner's Children Chicago

Felicity Fishman, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, is determined to provide a safe and comfortable space for her young patients. One of the main ways she does this is by drawing on her patient's casts and giving them something positive to remember about their experience in the hospital, reports The Washington Post. She has impacted several young lives with this small gesture including Wesley Puttrich, a 2-year-old boy born with two thumbs on his right hand.


As the condition—known as preaxial polydactyly or bifid thumb—limited his hand movement, he had to undergo surgery to rectify it. After the procedure, he woke up to a bright green and yellow drawing of a Tyrannosaurus rex on his cast thanks to Fishman. He wore the dinosaur cast for almost four weeks, and when it came time to remove it, he was so attached to it that he sobbed at the thought of parting with his T. rex.

His mother, Katie Puttrich said, "He wanted to keep the dinosaur with him, so we decided to save the cast, and it's now in his room where Wesley can look at it whenever he wants." For Fishman this compliment means a lot, she said, "If they can look at my drawing and remember a positive experience, that's wonderful to me. Anything you can do to connect with a child during the course of a surgery is helpful in maintaining that relationship." 


Although Fishman's greatest work, including the placement of artificial bones and properly placed metal plates, is not visible to the human eye, she claimed that nearly three years ago she made the decision to start creating amusing images for her young patients to wake up to after surgeries.

The 43-year-old said, "No matter how beautiful of a surgery you do, all the family is looking at for several weeks is the cast. I thought it would be nice to turn it into something more positive for everyone to look at." The pediatric hand and arm surgeon initially embellished casts with glitter glue or bright striped tape. Later a medical student advised her to look into colored pens with waterproof ink.


She said, "We found some pens [online] that could be used on anything, even rocks. If they would hold up on a rock, I figured they would also hold up on a cast." Fishman shared that she sketched Minnie Mouse on a girl's cast arm for her very first drawing.

She added that she quickly understood that the colorful artwork was more than just a way to amuse her young patients with a fun drawing. "It was about giving them a little bit of control in a situation they otherwise couldn't control," Fishman said. "I show them pictures on my phone of things other kids have picked, and we go from there."


According to Fishman, she has so far painted vibrant images on around 60 castings, depicting anything from unicorns and sharks to dinosaurs and dump trucks. While another child received an artwork of his intricate story about a shark eating a fish, one boy woke up to a long railway winding down his arm. Fishman noted that while she was growing up, she wasn't particularly interested in drawing. In elementary school, she did enjoy coloring circus animals, but she was more drawn to sports.

She does, however, do a pretty decent job of painstakingly sketching a black outline before coloring in an image after first studying it online. She takes her time and wants to make it perfect because there isn't much space for mistakes or second chances with a cast. She said, "I have never messed up. The surgical case starts and ends with art. Pretty much every surgeon draws their proposed incision with a marker prior to actually incising the skin."

"The beauty of treating children is that even if we didn’t do anything to intervene, they would still be rock stars," Fishman added. "I love doing the artwork. But watching kids interact with the world in a way that wasn’t possible before is the ultimate reward."

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