These epic masks have been created for children undergoing radiotherapy to keep them still during treatment.
The bold designs range from Batman and Captain America to My Little Pony.
One girl wanted to look like “the queen of radiotherapy” in her individually designed mask which includes a crown and a striking pendant.
They are all the work of Lobke Marsden, an art therapist and play specialist at St James’ Hospital in Leeds who has made about 30 masks since the scheme started 10 months ago.
The team at the Bexley Wing found that plain masks can look scary for younger patients and add to the worry of their treatment.
The masks are used by radiographers to keep the patient still so that the treatment targets the right area. They are fastened or clipped to the treatment bed.
Marsden said: “Since painting the masks we found children are more cooperative when it comes to wearing their masks for their daily treatment.
“An item that was previously perceived as frightening now becomes something that makes them feel ‘braver’ when they wear it or simply becomes something meaningful as the design is completely chosen by them.”
By keeping them still in a mask, the patients are also spared the trauma of needing anaesthetic every day during a six-week treatment cycle.
“I absolutely love to see the patients smile after seeing their painted mask,” Marsden added. “It is a lovely feeling to be able to turn something quite cold and frightening looking into something personal and meaningful to them.”
This red and black Darth Maul mask gained extra special attention when it was shared online.
Marsden had only been on the social network a few months when she posted the creation – earning her praise from Star Wars alumni Mark Hamill and Ray Park, better known respectively as Luke Skywalker and Darth Maul.
While it was exciting to get their reactions, the best bit for Marsden is the response from her young patients.
“The biggest compliment was when a little boy who found the mask-making process quite upsetting, didn’t want to pick up or even see his plain mask as it reminded him of the horrible experience,” she said.
“After I painted his mask into Iron Man he became excited and went from not wanting it near him to wanting to wear it. This child then had his treatment without the need of a general anaesthetic for his radiotherapy treatment.”
The team at St James’ was inspired after seeing something similar elsewhere. They took time to work out which paints could be used – tested by the medical physics department – before starting the first paint job.
Marsden added: “We hope that other hospitals will be inspired by our work in the same way we were and will be encouraged to introduce this to their setting.”