I was already in the middle of Parenting Class when an uneasy feeling caused me to double check my schedule and, WOOPS, I’m due at the hospital in 45 minutes! Off I run across town, and valet my car for however much that’s going to cost, and voila I made it just in time to start rounds with Dr. Gonzo.
1) Wait, What?!
In pre-op we met a 12 year old whose attitude was “no clowns!” His mother said he’d watched “IT” too many times (I told her that was on her). I still want to test the waters a touch before complying with the rejection, and Dr. Gonzo’s magic trick turned the kid’s dial from “No Clowns” to “Wait, WHAT!?” ‘That’s right,’ we said, and beat our retreat.
OMG, Dr. Gonzo had a roll of orange streamer paper in his doctor bag today. A most wonderful and colorful way to cause mischief in a room, “trashing” it with “TP.” Fantastic!
3) But Maybe We Do
“You don’t have to visit us,” says a mother, perhaps on account of her child’s significant delays. When I offer a song she perks up and says the child loves music. Usually I need to take care to play quietly, but when Mom informs us the child is half-deaf we adjust the volume. The child loves it, the mother is thrilled and we leave the room enlivened and buzzing.
4) To Juggle or Not to Juggle
When this 11 year old keenly wants to learn how to juggle, we recommend he ball up his (hospital) socks. He didn’t want to because they were dirty, so I start asking after a clean pair, and Dr. Gonzo deftly takes me into the hallway. He notices that because the boy has a Personal Care Attendant -an assigned guardian- that perhaps we should hold off on encouraging the boy to start throwing anything. Dr. Gonzo is right of course, but it did feel unfortunate to not be able to help provide a positive outlet for the kid’s restless energy. This belies the delicacy of our work, and the importance of working with a partner.
5) Play It Again, Be Bopper?
The “frequent fliers” I see most consistently are -not surprisingly- in dialysis. A couple of our buddies there really like music. I have played them my round of primary hits. I really need some other songs now!!
6) When the Chips Go Down
Stopping in a room by special request, we find a robust young patient, eating chips; Boloco tortilla chips. This stoic kid puts Dr. Gonzo and I through our paces with his unflinching exterior; staring us down with his deep brown eyes, all the while methodically crunching his chips. I tease him for keeping his i-Pad handy in case we might bore him, and a little glimmer escapes his tough armor. I am singing about this when Dr. Gonzo turns around, lifts his doctor coat and performs some signature booty shaking. Bingo. Kid is smiling, wincing under the scandal, smirking at this mom. We play around in this zone for a while, tough kid on the outside, cracking up on the inside. “Thank you so much!” says the mom as we leave, “We haven’t had a smile in quite a while!” And that is what we’re here for.
7) BRT (Behavioral Response Team)
Dr. Gonzo leads me past a couple rooms I thought we were going to visit, and points out that the patient in one of them is having an episode and we need to keep clear of the area. “An epileptic episode?” I ask. Well maybe, but since a handful of security guards are arriving on the scene it’s probably more Behavioral. Then I hear the loud, heart rending scree of an 11 year old boy straining under a deep emotional anguish. We clear the area and it hurts to be unable to help in that situation.
8) Sounds of Laughter
Some of the experiences are great because of the sound of the patient’s laughter, and the reaction it has in turn on their caregivers. There was Owen on his belly, bossing us around his room and demanding to inspect Gonzo’s magic trick. And there was Suzanne in the middle of Jenga with her dad. Dr. Gonzo was doing all this clowning while I desperately “tried” to stop him from causing the Jenga tower to collapse. It ultimately did from all the laughter and hullabaloo. As we left she cheerfully started gathering the pieces and said, “You guys are really funny clowns! You made me laugh like a hundred times!” We say our goodbyes, leaving her bed, TV & Dad all TP’d with orange streamers.
9) Quiet Angels
And sometimes it’s quiet, like the very calm boy to whom I started introductions until we realized he was actually asleep with his eyes open. Or the very young boy in a “halo,” lying across his mom and struggling restlessly when we arrived. During the course of our singing and juggling, he settled down and was sitting upright perfectly still and calm for two or three songs, his wide brown eyes ready for the next encore. I would like to have stayed and played to his heart’s content. And off we went.