Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sancho the Medical Clown

It was a day like any other for Emek Medical Center’s Sancho, the medical clown, the Dream Doctor, writes my friend from the hospital. He appeared at children’s bedsides, dressed in baggy patched up pants, a flowered shirt with multi-colored flowing scarves, oversized shoes, adorned with bells, whistles, plastic flowers, a fluffy orange feather duster, toy stethoscope and with balloons and chains hanging from his pockets. On his head he wore a red plastic bowler hat and a large red plastic nose was held in place by an elastic band. That’s how he looked when he accompanied his long-time oncology friend, M., an eighteen year old girl who had been treated for cancer and later returned with recurring pain. They walked together into the newly renovated lobby of the Pediatric Outpatient Clinic.

The colorful child-friendly lobby was filled with the buzz of kids and their parents as they waited for treatment while playing with toys, arts & crafts, computers and puzzles. It was a healthy mix of Jews and Arabs who were all there for the same reason … seeking medical assistance for their loved one. Sancho immediately began examining the children as well as the parents with a combination of feather dusting, plastic stethoscope and an invisible thermometer. He then accompanied M into the treatment room where her fate remained uncertain. After several minutes of teasing nurses and physicians while bringing endless smiles to the kids being treated, Sancho and M returned to the suddenly silent lobby.

Seated off to the side was an Arab wearing standard brown prison garb (Militant? Terrorist?) and whose wrists and ankles were securely restrained by locked steel. Standing on either side of him was a heavily armed uniformed security detail made up of two powerfully built men holding automatic weapons and two stern women with holstered hand guns. Tension and fear filled the lobby like smoke from an untamed fire. Children stood close to their parents who avoided making eye contact with the prisoner or the guards. Was he a terrorist? Had he intended to kill?

Sancho, in clear view of everyone, began rummaging through his flowered shirt pockets, spilling out balloons, whistles, plastic keys and flowers until he found what he was looking for. He straightened his small frame, assumed a serious expression in spite of his plastic red nose and slowly removed a tiny blue plastic water pistol. He mimicked the stern expressions on the faces of the guards and then began a mock security scanning of the largest guard using his feather duster as the electronic scanner. He made slow high squeaked beeping noises until the feather duster reached the guard’s machine gun. That set off a confused flurry of beeps that had everyone in the lobby suddenly alive with laughter. Even the shackled militant forgot for a moment his predicament and joined in the laughter. Sancho then continued with a series of security checks on the children and their parents.

Sancho, in his infinite wisdom, proved once again to everyone present that it was ok to smile in the face of fear and the unknown.

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