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Published on June 20, 2016

A kidney looks like a manatee?A kidney looks like a manatee?

When ultrasound student Christy Craig looks at an image of the hepatic veins and the inferior vena cava draining into the liver, she sees a reindeer.

The proximal aorta coming into the heart reminds her of the Titanic sinking.

The inferior vena cava by itself looks like a cow crossing a river.

Now, her lifelong ability to visualize one thing from another has combined in a cool way that she never expected.

“When we were at Middlesex Community College, there were certain lab assignments we had to do and images we had to capture,” she said during a recent interview at Cape Cod Hospital where she is currently doing the clinical portion of her degree.

“Our instructor told us we had free rein in how to present them. When she told us a student last year put her images on seasonal craft paper according to the seasons, a light bulb went off in my head. So I made a challenge to myself to draw the first thing that the image looked like to me.”

Suddenly, part of the portal vein in the liver became a happy little sea turtle and part of the gall bladder became a narwhal in her vision. The distal portion of the inferior vena cava became a slide with a joyful child sliding down it. Kidneys turned into a bumpy little pickle, a manatee, a snail and the bloodthirsty plant, Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.

“Kidneys are fun,” Craig said. “They give you lots of options.”

Craig said that the photos were not only a lot of fun to do, but they helped her learn the various assignments because she is a visual learner.

When the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography held a conference and poster contest last fall in her hometown of Dallas, Texas, she decided to create a poster and go to the conference. She didn’t win, but when a friend uploaded her poster onto Facebook, the post went viral. She lost track of how many people liked it, but it led to orders to buy copies of it.

“People wanted to buy them for their offices,” she said. “I sold probably 25 of them just from that post. It was incredible. They are all over the states. Now I sell them at my Etsy shop.”

One of the posters is also hanging in an ultrasound room in the Emergency Center of Cape Cod Hospital.

Craig has been an artist her whole life. While other girls her age played with dolls or watched television, she grabbed her box of crayons. She earned a fine arts degree with a concentration in oil painting from Saint Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana in 1997, but her life moved into fast forward before she could begin a career in art. She got married and started a family and was a stay at home mother while her children were little.

When she was ready to move forward with her career, a friend suggested that she become an ultrasound technician. She loved the idea and began school in 2011

“My teachers have been amazing and then they gave me Cape Cod Hospital as my clinical site and it was like winning the lottery,” Craig said. “I’ve loved my time here.”

Craig, who is also an ace knitter, plans to give her teachers a basket full of colorful organs she has knit as a thank you to them when she gets her diploma in May. She will then continue her clinical through the summer and fully graduate at the end of August.

“I have felt so completely fulfilled by this job because it just lit a match to my art,” she said, explaining that now she is doing pet portraits as well. “It’s just really all come together and become such a good challenge.”