Clowning at the Trauma Ward
One of my clown friends, Mamee, was in a wheelchair. Her back surgery had been unsuccessful, and she had been in a trauma ward for six months in an Alexandria, Virginia hospital. She had told them she would be back as a clown, and I wanted to help her fulfill that promise. We wanted to go during the day, during the week, so we asked those we thought could go. It became a daytime meeting for the Fellowship of Christian Clowns.
Edna (Mamee) explained what the Trauma Ward was like. The older patients were often there because of strokes or falling. The younger patients often had had very bad auto or skiing or sports injuries. They all needed live-in daily therapy for most of the day and self-care in most aspects of living. Some were in and out of comas. We decided we would go clowning at the trauma ward one week, and the next week we would meet at church to debrief. That would give us a time to talk about things that may have been disturbing to us, and also give us a chance to share how we handled various situations that might arise.
Edna made arrangements with the hospital. This is called Therapeutic Clowning and is my favorite kind. We decided we would have open-ended visits, and be guided as to the length of time and what we would be doing. As such, we decided to go individually. One of the clown helpers was a massage therapist. She had a basket with soft towels and hand lotion and she gave hand massages. Another clown had an enormous soft teddy bear and let people just hug it. His name was Popcorn, and he became extremely popular!
My most precious experience was with a young man who had been in a motorcycle accident. He had come out of a coma. We knew each other by now because we had been coming for a few months and he had been there since the beginning. Since I had had a near death experience, I knew that a soul that is out-of-the-body is likely to be more present than ever. So when I went into a room with a coma patient, I would usually just sit quietly and talk with them.
This time, when I walked into his room he told me he wanted to tell me about an experience he had had after the accident and while waiting for the ambulance. He said he hadn’t wanted to tell the doctors and he thought the nurses might think he was crazy. (I knew that the clown is experienced as an archetype part human, part fantasy.) He told me that while out of his body, he experienced a great light that came to him, and that there was a being in that light whom he believed to be Jesus. He talked for quite some time and told me how this experience had changed his life. I was enraptured listening to him.
The clowns and helpers all agreed that this clowning experience was the most challenging, and rewarding, that we have ever done. We stayed for six months, and saying goodbye was quite touching. We had seen people come and go, and by then we knew the staff and nurses and doctors quite well. We had all learned a lot about clowning, and about ourselves and others. We felt fortunate to have been able to have had such enriching experiences.
[Written May 17, 2010]
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