Photo by Deborah Baic/Globe and Mail
What’s your style?
Spiderman and other popular images turn clinical devices into a fashion statement
When Keaton Grassie’s parents told the 10-year-old he’d have to have his legs amputated to halt a life-threatening disease, they expected a “storm of emotion,” his mother Katie says.

Instead, they were surprised by Keaton’s apparent nonchalance. “He took the news quite well. We think that’s because we told him right away that he’d receive prostheses and be able to walk again, and that he could make his new legs look really cool by putting tattoos on them.”

For almost a decade, super heroes, cartoon characters, sports logos, butterflies, camouflage fatigues and even pictures of the family pet have found their way onto prostheses and braces at Bloorview Kids Rehab.

Images can be laminated onto prostheses or transferred onto orthoses.

“It makes them more personal and individual, like they’re a part of (the child) instead of just a boring set of artificial legs,” Katie says.

The popular images and designs act as an ice-breaker at school, says prosthetic and orthotic technician Ron Bartlett, who first connected with Bloorview at age 17 when he came for his own fitting. “They make the kids cool and gives them something to show off to their friends,” Ron says.

Decorating devices involves children in a process over which they have little control, orthotist Sheila Kellner notes.

“Children don’t have control over the fact that they have to wear prostheses or braces, and plain devices can look sterile and clinical,” Sheila says. “But when kids can choose the way their braces look — with colours, patterns and images — they open up to the experience and get excited.”

Keaton hasn’t made up his mind about what image he wants on his legs, “but he’s holding his father Ed to a promise he made Keaton in the hospital that Ed would get the same matching tattoo,” Katie says.

“Let’s hope it’s a good one!”


Bloorview Kids Rehab | Bloorview’s Resource Centre