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Artful Hands

Patients come to Shriners Children’s for a variety of hand conditions, including syndactyly (or webbed fingers), the most common limb difference. For surgeon Felicity Fishman, M.D., at Shriners Children’s Chicago, treatment for this condition is a true work of art. 

Keaton is all smiles after surgery with his shark cast.

“Pretty much every surgeon draws their proposed incision with a marker prior to actually incising (cutting) the skin,” Dr. Fishman said. But in Dr. Fishman’s operating room, the day also ends with art. After the patient’s tiny fingers are separated, incisions closed, and a protective cast applied, in a few brief minutes as the cast sets, the surgical nurse has artist’s markers at the ready. 

“The idea for the cast art always comes from the patient or parent. I ask the kids (or their parent if they are too young to communicate) what they would like drawn on their cast, so it’s personalized for them,” Dr. Fishman said. She has created snowflakes for Frozen fans, dinosaurs and even snowmen.

Name: Felicity Fishman, M.D.
Expertise: Surgeon
Location: Chicago

Patient Keaton picked a T-Rex for the surgery on his left hand and a shark for his right. Glancing at a reference photo from the internet, Dr. Fishman created custom art, bringing in her orthopedic resident as co-artist. In a few short minutes, with the sterilized grey markers and some orange coloring, she created the scene for Keaton on his watery blue cast. 

Dr. Fishman said custom cast art is about much more than making the cast look fun. “Just like choosing a cast color, the personalized drawing helps to give the patient a bit more control in a situation that is generally out of their control and can be scary or unpleasant,” she said.