In the middle of what he called a “slow night” at Stanford Health Care's emergency room department, technician Jack DeWees hatched a colorful idea.
He saw that the department had run out of toys for the child patients, so he grabbed a roll of compression bandages and rolled it up into an animal figure.
“I think it was like an orange fish with black stripes,” said DeWees. “It turned out pretty well.”
He showed it around to colleagues and after getting some positive feedback, DeWees handed the colorful creation to a child in the ER.
“It made the kid happy,” said DeWees.
That was enough encouragement for DeWees to continue creating more, and more elaborate, figures. He called them “Cobanimals,” named after the Coban brand of bandages he uses.
DeWees has since created dozens of amazing figures, most of them based on movie and TV characters.
“My first one was Mike Wazowski from ‘Monsters Inc.’ because he's basically a green ball with a big eye,” he said.
Next came Kermit the Frog. Then it progressed to characters with more complicated costumes. DeWees described the process as a whole lot of trial and error, cutting the bandages in just the right way.
He saw his dedication really pay off when 3M, the makers of Coban, sent him a box filled with different colors of compression bandages.
“I was just working with about five, six colors, and they expanded it to about 10 or 12 so I could really make any body I wanted now,” said DeWees. “I was very grateful to them for doing that.”
DeWees eventually started up an Instagram page under the handle “cobanimals” dedicated to showing off his work. It quickly gained a loyal following of fellow medical and veterinary professionals who praised his art.
DeWees decided to keep the ball rolling with his bandages.
“I decided that maybe if they were this popular, since they were kind of getting some traction on my social media, that maybe I could auction them,” he said. “Hopefully raise money and do something a little bit better with them too.”
Since he said Cobanimals started as a way to help children pass the time while they were in urgent care, DeWees wants to ensure that all the money he collected from his future auctions goes to charity.
“I decided whoever wins the auction can decide to either donate the money to Make-A-Wish Foundation or Guide Dogs For The Blind,” he said.
DeWees held his first auction in May for a Cobanimal based on the Toothless character in the How To Train Your Dragon series. DeWees has created a separate Instagram page for the auctions, and said interested buyers can bid in the comments section. He will announce a winner within a few days after the auction closes.
“The intention behind all this is just to bring joy to people who either work in health care, work with animals or who are in health care themselves as patients,” he said. “It's just to make people happier in general.”