By Richard Welling, Prosthetist/Orthotist, and Robin Cavender, Prosthetic Clinical Assistant, Limb Deficiency Team
As part of the limb deficiency team at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we help kids who were born without limbs or have lost limbs due to injury or illness. Our jobs challenge us to create prosthetic limbs that meet needs as dynamic as the children and athletes who wear them. Through the years, we’ve created prostheses specialized for runners, climbers and basketball players.
Adult patients often want their limbs to look as “real” as possible. For kids, it’s often the opposite.
It’s also one of the many reasons we love working in pediatrics. We field requests for everything from Tinkerbell to rap artists, but the sentiment is always the same: Our patients want limbs that say, “I’m different, I know it, and I’m okay with it.” The ultimate form of self-expression.
That said, we’re always on the prowl for new ways to make limbs worthy of the inspirational kids who will wear them—mechanically and visually. Just as the mechanical portion tasks us with wearing our engineering hats, the visual portion taps our inner artists. Thanks to Sharpie, we recently had the opportunity to work with real artists.
Last fall, our team took note of Sharpie’s fast-growing and creative presence on social media. From Corvettes to skateboards and from Facebook to Instagram, the iconic brand features artists who use its products on unexpected surfaces.
Would an artificial limb appeal to them as an unexpected canvas? We thought it was worth a shot, reached out to Sharpie and were beyond excited when they saw an opportunity to partner. The plan? Engage the Sharpie Squad in a contest to design a piece of art that would capture the personality of one of our patients and could be used on his new prosthetic.
In need of a patient that could inspire artists across the country, we immediately thought of Erik, an athletic, outgoing teen we’ve known since he was a baby. Erik has twice served as a junior counselor at Adventure Amputee Camp, and he’s a great example of what you can achieve with hard work and perseverance.
Erik wanted a design that showed his love of sports. The Squad got to work. In the end, Erik chose to combine designs from two different artists, Drew Michael and Lauren Seal.
Our team worked to transfer the designs onto a fabric sleeve and, days later, we put the finishing touches on Erik’s leg—just in time for spring football season.