Detroit surgeon surprises young patients with custom 'cast art'

He believes cast art helps ease kids' anxiety

By Sarah Mayberry, M.P.H. - Producer, Frank McGeorge - Reporter

DETROIT - A local doctor has found a special way to help his young patients feel better in a very stressful situation.

When a child or a teenager needs surgery, it can be a scary situation. Needing a cast after a surgery can add to their stress and anxiety.

Brendan Manfre, 16, from Melvindale, is a huge Detroit Lions fan. He was playing football with friends when he got injured.

"My foot got caught in between his, and it, like, snapped," said Manfre. "I was, like, 'Yeah, I broke something for sure. It's bad.'"

Manfre needed surgery to repair the fracture and he received that surgery at the Children's Hospital of Michigan.

Manfre was nervous about the surgery. When he woke up from anesthesia, he was stunned to see his cast paying tribute to his favorite team. It's blue with a distinctive Lions logo.

Dr. Ahmed Bazzi is the pediatric orthopedic surgeon behind the surprise.

He said the Lions logo was a tough one.

"The whole surgery, I wasn't worried about fixing your ankle. We know how to do that. I was worried about how I'm going to draw that lion. I was stressing out," said Bazzi.

Bazzi insisted that he is not an artist, but don't tell that to his patients or their parents.

He's crafted custom casts that include Batman, Iron Man, Thomas the Train, Ninja Turtles, and Wonder Woman. Sometimes, the casts are seasonal. There were candy corn feet for a baby and an elf leg cast at Christmas time.

"It's always a happy, excited reaction that they got this, you know, this decoration that they really didn't expect," said Bazzi.

He started decorating casts eight years ago. He does it as often as he can.

"I focus on the postoperative patients rather than clinic, just because there are way too many casts that we put on in clinic," said Bazzi.

Because the decoration is a surprise, he does some detective work before surgery.

"I ask, you know, 'What do they like?' or 'What do you like to read about? What shows do you watch? Who's your favorite character?' You notice it on a blanket. You notice it on their shoes," said Bazzi.

After caring for children for many years, he understands, it's a little touch that makes a big difference.

"You're doing some big surgeries, big repairs, big corrections.  And it's only natural that the pain and the fear of what's to come - the unknown - may be overwhelming for them.  So having them look down on their leg, despite the pain and see something they like, maybe brag to their siblings about, maybe show it to their friends, that really kind of eases things and has really been the crux of what we do," said Bazzi.

For Manfre, it was a kind gesture that didn't go unnoticed.

"That's actually like, pretty amazing to be honest. 'Cause he didn't have to do this. It was pretty cool," said Manfre.

It's reactions like those that keep Bazzi inspired.

"Selfishly and secretly speaking, this is just as rewarding for me as it is for the patient," said Bazzi.

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