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Sawyer Singleton Emerges from ACH OR as a True Superhero

May 26, 2016

Sawyer Singleton did exactly what 3-year-old boys are supposed to do. He rambled through his great grandfather's house, jumping excitedly around his toys. But his foot slipped and he landed the wrong way on a familiar, rainbow-hued miniature xylophone.

"The pain was immediate," said Sawyer's mother, Danielle Singleton. "He was just screaming, and you could tell it was excruciating."

At Arkansas Children's Hospital, doctors knew before even doing an X-ray what was wrong: Sawyer had fractured his femur with that little misstep.

Because 3-year-olds are so rambunctious, and there's little chance of keeping them still, the best way to help a child this age heal is with a Spica cast, also known as a body cast.

"We recognize that's an extremely challenging situation for both the child and the family," said Brien Rabenhorst, MD, Sawyer's orthopedic surgeon at ACH. "We do this because it's the best way for the bone to grow back together without causing future problems."

Before Sawyer headed off to surgery, the orthopedics team asked Danielle if she or her husband had any preferences for the color of his cast.

"I just said, 'He loves Spider-Man, so maybe blue or red,'" she recalls.

Sawyer's obsession with the Marvel superhero had started earlier in the year, when he insisted on being Spider-Man for Halloween. The surgery staff at ACH let him bring his three-foot Spider-Man doll into the OR to keep him company during the procedure.

"That's when we thought, 'Oh, we have a chance to really do something cool for this kid. Maybe even make the situation a little more tolerable,'" Dr. Rabenhorst said.

Together, he and X-ray technician Ted Sharp drew the familiar webbing and Spider-Man insignia on Sawyer's body cast. The design, which took about 10 minutes and a very steady hand, was done entirely with Sharpie marker and red cast materials.

"When Sawyer woke up from surgery, he was just amazed with his new uniform. And so were we," Danielle said. "He would tell everyone, 'My name is Spider-Man Sawyer.'"

When Sawyer woke up from surgery, he was just amazed with his new Spider-Man uniform.

His nurses even helped apply coordinating leg casts on the little boy's favorite Spider-Man toy.

Rabenhorst told the Singletons to expect Sawyer to be in his new "uniform" for about 6-8 weeks.

In the meantime, Danielle and Barton pulled their son in a wagon anytime he needed to move. He's played a lot of iPad games, and the family tried to keep him occupied and focused on distractions beyond his injury.

His follow-up appointments went well, and Spider-Man Sawyer broke free of his cast's confines right after New Year's Day!

"There is no question it's been a difficult situation," Danielle said. "But the extra effort the ACH team took to care for my son made us feel better. It made him feel special."

Learn more about the Orthopedic & Fracture Clinic at Arkansas Children's Hospital.

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