Opening-my-heart surgery When it was first suggested that I take a medical clown course I immediately said, “No way!” I couldn’t imagine myself standing beside a crying, scared kid in a hospital bed and all I would be able to do is cry with him and soak his sheet with my tears. And still, despite that absolute “no,” I added, “but please tell me more.” I wanted “opening-my-heart surgery”; to cope with my fears of opening my heart, getting emotional, and being exposed; with my fear of encountering pain, sickness, and death. I decided not to be paralyzed by these fears and this decision in fact became a gateway for growth and an opportunity to achieve emotional strength and empowerment. Today, I, Nehama Perel, work at Hadassah Hospital as Medical Clown Boola-Boola. I am a part of “Dream Doctors,” the Medical Clown Project that began at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem in 2002 with three clowns. Today, 15 years later, more than 100 clowns work in 29 hospitals in Israel. At Hadassah, we are seven medical clowns who work as a part of the medical staff on regular shifts within the wards and during medical procedures. Our work is mostly with the patients, but also supporting the families and, of course, helping the dedicated staff. I try to connect to the child’s healthy side and bring him back to a sense of being in a protected and safe place. Through play and imagination, the child can re-experience feelings of capability and strength that had been stifled in the hospital, where he is sick and often in pain, where everyone tells him what to do and he has no control over his own body. Into this harsh reality enters the medical clown and the child suddenly has an opportunity to reconnect to his own strengths. Take Michal for example, a four-year-old girl, hospitalized in Hadassah to get an intravenous (IV) treatment. Michal is scared and lies crying in her father’s arms. I pulll out the secret weapon–soap bubbles–and pretend I cannot blow bubbles. Her father suggests that Michal try herself. “Really? Michal can blow bubbles? No way…really? Can you”? I ask as Boola-Boola, the clown, and Michal’s eyes shine in excitement. She blows a treasure of colorful bubbles. The timing is perfect. The doctor starts the process of inserting the IV while Michal lies in bed and we take turns. I get confused and miss and fail while Michal blows proudly in her turn, not even noticing that on her other side, the needle is already in her arm. I am lucky to work at Hadassah. I am lucky to be a medical clown and to see the magic that connects people, turns difficult situations upside down, makes us laugh and cry, empowers us, and enables us to grow. This work is a gift to me, too, as I continually learn and develop professionally and personally. In my subsequent blogs, I’ll share stories with you from the other medical clowns at Hadassah–David, Maya, Fulla, Shiri, Juan, and Amichay. Each of them is doing wonderful, important, and amazing work.