The Creative Way This Ohio Doctor Helps Kids Recover From Surgery

Dr. Robert Parry estimates he's drawn 10,000 bandages for his young patients.

When Heather Vincent finally got to see her son, Jackson, in the intensive care unit of Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio after he underwent surgery to remove three tumors, she felt totally overwhelmed. 

"We walk into this room and Jackson is hooked up all these tubes: breathing tubes, monitors, he's got a drainage tube down from his nose into his belly, he's got tubes and stickers everywhere. It was nothing like I've ever seen my child before," Vincent told "As I'm looking at him with all these tubes coming out of him, one of the nurses walked over and said, 'I just want to show you this,' and she lifts up his shirt and there's a gigantic Buzz Lightyear bandage on his belly." 

Vincent smiled, knowing that her son would be thrilled to see his favorite character when he woke up. 

"It was awesome," Jackson, now 7, still remembers the surgical dressing his pediatric surgeon, Dr. Robert Parry, had hand-drawn for him right there in the operating room. 

For both Heather and Jackson, it was a moment of joy in the otherwise harrowing journey of treating high-risk neuroblastoma, with which Jackson was diagnosed when he was just 2 years old. 

Parry estimates he has turned 10,000 bandages into art in his career as a pediatric surgeon. Parry says he was inspired to draw by his mother, an art historian and amateur artist, and finds it to be "a little mini escape." After the surgery is finished and the anesthesiologist is helping the child wake up, Parry gets to work.

"I have a little bit of downtime, but I don't want to leave the room until I know the kid is OK, so it just fills that time in perfectly," Parry said. "It's fun for everyone, and it's selfishly fun for me. I love doing it. I love the reactions of the kids and parents and the staff." 

Parry's art lives on beyond discharge day, too. Susan McFrederick's son, Witt, suffered an intestinal rupture in utero. He underwent surgery with Parry when he was just a baby. McFrederick had no idea her tiny son's bandages would be turned into art.

"Dr. Parry had made an entire winter scene," McFrederick said. "It had rolling hills of snow, a pine tree and a snowman. He had cut out a hat and a broom. It really drew our attention to something so special and helped us not focus on how scared we were and worried we were.

"We did not expect anything like that when we saw Witt after surgery, but it was very touching for both my husband and I and our children, and for everyone to see that," she continued. "You know that a surgeon that takes the time to do that, does what he does not only to fix children, but to also show love and encourage families through the healing process." 

McFrederick saved Witt's bandages along with other memories from the hospital, and showed them to him when he was 4 years old. Now almost 9, Witt still likes to look at them. 

"They make me think of how creative he is and how good of a doctor he is and how amazing he was to take care of me and open the insides of me," Witt said. "He's so brave, and he's a really nice person." 

Parry said it's children's optimism that draws him to pediatric surgery, and his bandage art.  

"Kids are incredibly resilient; they're strong and they can still enjoy beautiful things, even when some stuff around them really isn't that great," Parry said. "Children are just eternally optimistic. They're just born that way. Things can be 90% bad in their lives and 10% good, and kids go to the 10% good.

"For the selfish side of me, it's good to be around that optimism," he added.