Don’t go in there!
We have been visiting a new location of our host hospital once a week for a few months now. Day surgery has always been a very solid visit for us. Kids and their parents are very nervous. The kids are about to be put under anesthesia for a procedure or surgery, and many times it is the first time this has happened to them. Anxieties are very high for everyone in the room. One of the jobs of the day surgery nurse is to help alleviate some of that with their calm demeanor and supportive role with the families. That can lead to some resistance where clowns are concerned. Last week, my partner and I entered the day surgery pre-op area, and a nurse came rushing up to us and said, “Don’t go in Room 7”. My response, as an experienced clown who doesn’t take no for an answer easily, was “why, what’s going on in there?”. Luckily, our relationship is strong enough that she explained, instead of being rude or blowing me off. She said the kid has autism, and she knows that autistic kids love lights and buttons. So she had taken him a light up robot toy to play with and he completely flipped out at the sight of it. Her assessment was that clowns would cause the same reaction. I said ok, do you mind if we just try playing a little music from the door? As I began to play my concertina, the child of about 7 years old, peeked his head out to look at me. His expression instantly changed from fear to wonderment – more at the musical instrument than at me. We entered the room, and within five minutes, the little boy was playing notes on my concertina and interacting with us beautifully. When we left, he cried for us to come back.
Fast forward to the following week, same pre-op area, and a little girl who I could see through the window of her room as I walked up to the nurses station. I could see she looked frightened by the setting, and very timid. I approached the nurse, said hello, and she said, “I wouldn’t go in Room 1….oh, never mind, go wherever you want”. That felt like a big success to me. The realization and admission that we have something tangible to offer these families, and that we have the wisdom to recognize a situation and act accordingly in the mission to make life better for children.