The Softer Side of Surgery, Doctor Designs Personalized Dressings for Patients

Cameron Star Bandage
Cameron shows off his star bandage alongside his stuffed animal’s matching bandage.

No kid wants to have surgery. It’s not a fun experience – but Dr. Kimberly Riehle, an attending surgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital, does her best to help reassure patients and families that everything will be okay by creating custom bandages shaped like hearts, trains and even fish.

A personalized touch

“I think the designs make the kids feel special,” said Riehle. “When we see kids, typically something unexpected has happened to them. They are seemingly healthy and then something happens that causes them to need surgery. These situations can be really stressful for parents and families. Personalizing the dressings is just one way I can help to make the experience better for them.”

Each year, Seattle Children’s surgical teams – from craniofacial to orthopedics – perform about 13,000 surgeries, double the number of any other institution in the region. But for Riehle it’s about more than the sheer number of surgeries she performs; it’s about caring for each individual patient.

The personalized bandages are one way Riehle can help children who need surgery – and their families – cope with the experience.

“It’s a reminder: ‘You will overcome this,’” said Riehle. “It helps to take away some of the anxiety of being in the hospital, and a small way I can help families.”

For Carol Yip, who unexpectedly spent her birthday by her 8-year-old son’s side in the hospital when he needed an appendectomy, the star bandage meant a lot to her.

“For Dr. Riehle to do something like that was above and beyond the care we expected to receive,” said Yip. “At 3 a.m. when the surgery was over, she could have just walked out of the room, but she took the time to make us feel like she cared about us as people. I really appreciated that.”

Making a difference with a One Direction bandage

Nya Surgery Bandage
Nya’s custom bandage reminded her of her favorite band, One Direction.

Nya Jaquez, 14, never expected to find herself in the hospital either, but on Halloween 2013, there she was. And the news was grim: a cancer diagnosis. Nya was diagnosed with Signet Ring carcinoma, an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer located in her colon. She would need surgery to remove the tumor.

“It all happened very suddenly,” said Doug Jaquez, Nya’s father. “We thought we were going to lose our little girl. All I remember saying was, ‘Do whatever it takes.’”

On Nov. 6, 2013, Riehle performed Nya’s surgery.

“Seeing Nya’s bandages after surgery took a huge load off our shoulders,” said Jaquez. “You don’t get that level of compassionate care from everyone. She went above and beyond to help our family feel at ease.”
Nya woke up from surgery to see her favorite band’s logo over her incision: 1D. It was the best possible sight for Nya, who says she is One Direction’s biggest fan.

“It made everything better,” said Nya. “It made me smile.”