I was privileged to join a delegation from Australia to learn about Hadassah’s extraordinary Medical Clown Program. Hadassah’s Clowns form part of the “Dream Doctor” Project – a unique venture which integrates Medical Clowns into the hospital healthcare system.

The delegation included the CEO, National Program Director and a Board Member from the Starlight Children’s Foundation, as well as a representative from our National Sponsor, William Buck. The purpose of our intensive three-day visit was to understand the program and witness first-hand its work within the clinical and therapeutic areas of the hospital. The Starlight Children’s Foundation are looking to expand their renowned work in Australian children’s hospitals, and have identified Israel as a leader in this area.

The visit left me breathless, excited and surprised. Notwithstanding that I had been actively involved in learning and promoting Hadassah’s Medical Clown Program for nearly 18 months, I had no idea about the depth and breadth of the work that the Clowns do.

On our first day, we travelled to Hadassah where we witnessed the magic of David ‘DusH’ Barashi, Hadassah’s most loved Medical Clown, as we followed him around the paediatric wards. The Head Nurse of the Emergency Rooms told us emphatically that, “we simply could not imagine life without the Medical Clowns.”

We watched Yossi the Clown improve the outcome of a rehabilitation session with a 2 year-old boy and his physiotherapist. Kadar was injured by a gun that was unintentionally fired by his older brother. According to his physio,

Before Yossi was involved Kadar was reticent to participate in therapy. However the moment that Yossi joined the team, Kadar performed his exercises with enthusiasm and energy. I have no doubt that Yossi’s involvement increased Kadar’s progress ten-fold.

Another Clown, Chamoutal, is famous for her wild orange ringlets. She wears a green satin skirt and a cheeky smile, which are perfect accompaniments to working with a group of four-year old children. We watched her sit on the floor with the children and tell them stories and play games. Their laughter was infectious.

It almost beggars belief that this group of children have been diagnosed as severe on the Autistic Spectrum. When I asked Chamoutal, “How can a clown benefit these children?” she answered,

I help them make connections. I help them communicate. I get on the floor and work with them until I get eye contact, then I take it to the next level of communication.

Our last visit took us to the Meir Hospital, where the Head of Emergency Paediatrics championed the use of Medical Clowns in the procedure room. He explained the integration of Clowns when performing Intra-articular Joint Injections, a painful procedure where the Clown plays an integral role with pain management.

I was moved by the extraordinary work of our Medical Clowns, particularly in areas in which I would not have dreamed that they would be involved. I was also excited by the synergy between our Dream Doctors, and the Starlight Foundation’s “Starlight Captains”. Starlight Captains are professionally trained entertainer, who similar to Medical Clowns, work within hospital wards to break down barriers and connect with sick children.

As the CEO of Starlight wrote following her return to Australia,

We saw much alignment between Starlight and the Dream Doctors and also clear differences. Starlight considers this to be a wonderful foundation position on which we can establish an ongoing collaboration to improve the health outcomes for seriously ill children in both Israel and Australia… Starlight is considered ’integral’ to the total care delivered in hospitals… In fact, included as part of the medical team, the Dream Doctors take this one step further.

In anticipation of our continued relationship into the next stage of our collaboration, she ended her letter,

The possibilities are real and exciting. We look forward to working in collaboration with Hadassah and the Dream Doctors… What a wonderful outcome for all involved.