Caring Surgeon Transforms Post-Op Dressings Into ‘Happy Surprises’ for 10K Pediatric Patients

Dr. Robert Parry

Robert Parry
Dr. Robert Parry

Dr. Robert Parry isn't just an accomplished surgeon -- he's a doctor who goes the extra mile for his patients. Parry, director of pediatric surgery at Akron Children's Hospital in Akron, Ohio, has gone viral recently for a series of drawings he's created on his patients' bandages -- and each one is more adorable than the next. The story behind them is warming hearts across the country.

  • Knowing how scary surgery can be, the doctor makes sure that each child he operates on wakes up to a special surprise.

    Dr. Robert Parry

    Instead of waking up to sterile bandages covering their new wound, Parry's young patients are treated to an unexpected treat. "Although the pen may not be mightier than the scalpel, pediatric surgeon Dr. Robert Parry always takes a moment to make sure a scar isn’t the only lasting memory of a child’s surgical procedure," Akron Children's Hospital's Facebook page shared. "He always surprises them with a hand-drawn dressing featuring a character or something that personally interests them."

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  • Parry says he got the idea from another surgeon who used to cut his pediatric bandages into the shape of hearts or even sharks.

    Dr. Robert Parry
    Dr. Robert Parry

    Parry tells CafeMom that during his surgical residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, he would often watch Dr. Perry Stafford go an extra step to cut out the shapes, and he was amazed by all the smiles they would bring to the doctor's young patients.

    "It was easy to see that the patients and their parents really enjoyed them," Parry explains when talking about the inspiration behind making his own dressing art. 

    The simple yet uplifting practice has become one of the hallmarks of his career.

    "Over time, the whole thing kind of took on a life of its own," he admits, adding that instead of cutting out shapes like Stafford, he prefers to draw right on the bandages. Don't worry, though -- he's figured out how to add his drawings to the bandages while still keeping the wounds sterile.

    "I use Telfa dressings (not an ideal art medium) and cut out the outline of the image freehand," he tells CafeMom. "Then I color it in using Sharpies. It doesn’t go directly on the wound -- it’s protected by a Tegaderm (plastic) dressing."

  • The doctor says that he's always been drawn to art, but he never imagined it would become a part of his medical career.

    Dr. Robert Parry
    Dr. Robert Parry

    Growing up, Parry's mother was an art historian and amateur artist, which might be where he got some of his artistic flair. 

    "I had always enjoyed art -- both looking at it and creating it," he says. "I never thought of art as a career, and never really studied it in school, but I always enjoyed creating it … drawing, watercolor, whatever."

    But the doctor doesn't see too many differences between his two favorite practices. Working as a surgeon and his drawings have both allowed him to work with his hands -- and make people feel better in the process.

    "I guess, then, that it’s not a surprise that I gravitated toward surgery," he explains. "I loved medicine and helping people, but surgery let me use both my mind and my hands."

    And even more so, Parry says he really loves working with children.

    "Kids are just fun to be around, there is so little judgement and they just want to be happy and feel better," he explains. "And, honestly, it’s incredibly rewarding to help a child survive and have the opportunity to grow up healthy."

    Parry says that he enjoys the "anonymity" of working with kids, too. 

    "I know I helped, and I love that the child will never really know or remember, except for what their parents tell them," he says. "So, I guess the bandages and the surgery are just who I am."

  • So far, his drawings have received rave reviews.

    Dr. Robert Parry
    Dr. Robert Parry

    To Parry, the drawings are a personal (and entertaining) addition to what can be a long and traumatic process to some of his patients. And it doesn't take him too long to create a little something extra that will put a smile on their faces.

    "Most dressings are done within five minutes while the patient is waking up," he says. "If I’m slow, I just walk to the recovery room and put it on there."

    "The response is really wonderful," he continues. "The child gets distracted and excited to see what they asked for, the parents are happy, and the medical staff is happy."

    His reputation as a bandage artist also has grown.

    "Nearly the first thing the recovery room nurses do when one of my patients comes out of surgery is look at the incision and say ‘What did you get?'" he shares.

  • Parry has been committed to ensuring that no patient goes home without a drawing ever since he completed his pediatric surgery training in 1996.

    Dr. Richard Parry
    Dr. Richard Parry

    "I’ve operated on more than 10,000 children, and all of them that needed a dressing got a drawing," he tells CafeMom. "From tiny newborns that weigh less than a pound to fully grown young adults. And I can’t recall anyone not enjoying it -- no matter how old they are."

    Some of Parry's nurses have even asked him to make them a drawing to keep on the back of their ID badges. 

    He says that no matter his "customer," he's open to drawing whatever images people may ask for.

    For his tiny patients, the drawings have ranged from Disney characters to sports images to video game heroes. 

    "And some are just silly," he adds -- like "a cheeseburger for one girl who was 'starving’ pre-operatively, a bottle of French dressing because the grandfather said ‘French’ when I asked what dressing the child wanted." 

    But ultimately, the doctor says he does it because it makes everyone feel good.

    "In the end, it’s just fun to do and it makes everyone, including me, feel good," he shares. "Simple as that."

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