Maggie Burke, 9, aspires to be an Olympic gymnast.

When 9-year-old Maggie Burke broke her elbow after an unusual landing while vaulting at gymnastics practice, she was concerned her dream may be in jeopardy.

She’s a competitive gymnast with a dream to compete in the 2024 Olympics, and so when she found out her injury would require surgery and a cast, she was feeling anxious. She never needed surgery before and her emergency trip to Seattle Children’s was the Burke family’s first trip to the hospital.

“During surgery prep, the staff found out about Maggie’s passion for gymnastics and her dream,” said Maggie’s mother, Odilia Burke. “We felt greatly supported by kind, caring and knowledgeable people that would soon have our daughter in their hands of expertise. What we weren’t expecting was the surprise we received when Maggie came out of recovery.”

In the operating room, while doctors expertly cared for Maggie’s elbow and set her arm in a cast, a surgical technologist went to work designing something special just for Maggie. It was a small gesture, but just what the doctor ordered.

“Some amazingly artistic and compassionate staff members crafted a work of art on Maggie’s cast we will not forget,” said Burke. “Seeing the cast, after a whirlwind of scary thoughts and anxious days leading up to surgery on our 9-year-old baby girl, touched our hearts so deeply! We have preserved the art work and will soon frame it and hang it in Maggie’s room.”

Designing casts for kids

Gluck made a gymnast out of coban for Burke’s cast.

For patients and families at Seattle Children’s, the intricate designs are meaningful. They represent comfort and hope during what can be a scary experience.

“One day, Dr. Dales, one of the surgeons, mentioned how scared a young patient was to get a cast and my heart just broke,” said Cynthia Gluck, a surgical technologist at Seattle Children’s who helps design the casts. “Dr. Dales informed me that he wanted a blue and green colored cast. I asked if the child was a Seahawks fan and with a ‘yes,’ I decided to try to make the logo. This gave birth to, as we jokingly call it, ‘coban art,’ which simply means art made out of casting material.”

Maggie’s cast is one of many creative and artfully designed casts doctors and operating room staff at Seattle Children’s have made for patients.

“It’s a beautiful thing when a patient is so happy to have a design,” said Gluck. “I am glad to be a part of the orthopedics team and a part of the Seattle Children’s organization. Who knew coban art could make so many kids smile?”

Each cast is unique and designed to bring a smile to a child’s face. The doctors and orthopedic and sports medicine staff behind the scenes in the operating room know wearing a cast for an extended period of time can be difficult, but they hope a little bit of creativity will help bring each patient a little bit of joy.

See below for more intricate works of cast art.