One Mayo Clinic heart surgeon is spreading joy through artwork

A heart surgeon at Mayo Clinic has made it her mission to surprise her patients with a token of joy when they wake up from surgery.

Posted: Apr 19, 2021 7:22 AM
Updated: Apr 19, 2021 12:06 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Performing heart surgery is a form of art in itself and now, one Mayo Clinic doctor is taking it a step further and bringing real artwork into the equation with a fine-tipped marker.

Dr. Elizabeth Stephens has found happiness within a Sharpie. It all started in October of last year when she wanted to surprise her 8-year-old patient when he woke up from surgery. Since then, it's grown to something bigger than she ever imagined.

Dr. Stephens primarily works with children, so she creates a safe and comfortable space for them. Before going into surgery, she gets to know the children and asks what their hobbies are. From there, she creates personalized doodles on their bandages over the incision.

Dr. Stephens explained the true meaning of the artwork goes far beyond what's actually on display. "We work so hard to fix these hearts and do these intricate repairs and the families and the patients never see our work," she said. "They only see the scar and the scar can be viewed as a defect or as something wrong. How do you make something like that be beautiful or appreciated because they have such unique hearts and they're so special."

While it's an added token of joy Dr. Stephens can give her patients and their families after what could be a difficult time, it also brings a sense of relief to her as well. "I think it also helps me kind of re-focus myself instead of getting too worried about the nitty gritty," she explained. "Although, I always need to be aware of all those things. It re-focuses why I'm doing this. I'm doing this to help kids. I'm doing this to help help their families and when I draw at the end of the case, I think that just resets my mind. I'm here to help them and this is my way of showing them in a visual manner."

Dr. Stephens said she has her team and fellow colleagues in the hospital to thank for encouraging her to keep this up and the best part is, the patients don't know about it until they wake up. To clarify, there's a plain bandage that goes over the incision then the bandage with the artwork goes on top of it.

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