visits with a patient during clown rounds.
('81) knew she'd need three things when she flew to China last September:
A stash of Pop-Tarts, the know-how to ask for a bathroom and the
words to say I love you.
she was traveling as a goodwill ambassador to spread laughter and
love with Patch Adams and his Humor in Medicine Delegation.
trip to Russia this summer, shes added one more thing to the
days in China with no Diet Coke taught me that Pop-Tarts alone were
not enough to maintain the American diet, the buxom, blue-eyed
blonde says happily while applying her 3-inch-long, rhinestone-studded
before we head off to Siberia, I intend to know how to ask for a
of 20-some-odd clowns will spend two weeks in Russia beginning Aug.
theyll visit hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and schools,
as well as streets, subways and hotels to spread joy and laughter.
Just as they did in China.
of the HaHaS
clowning around long before she met Patch Adams. But, her professional
alter ego of Nurse Ducky and her duck hand puppet, Quackers, are
closely tied to the legendary physician.
Williams made the real-life doctor of laughter famous to the general
public in the 1999 movie Patch Adams, Graves was in the theater
on opening day.
I watched the way Patch interacted with his patients on screen,
I remember thinking, This is me! I do this at work every day,
man behind her asked her to sit down and be quiet, Graves, a respiratory
therapist of 21 years, says she realized it was her God-given mission
to go forth and spread humor and healing along with hand-held nebulizers
and chest percussion.
she is probably the only premed graduate to also study theater at
So, as director
of cardiopulmonary and extended-care services at Harris Methodist
Southwest in Fort Worth, Graves went to her hospitals executive
board with Quackers in tow.
how she had been dressing up as Nurse Ducky and taking Quackers
to visit nursing homes in her hometown, Granbury, for years.
told them that if they could spend just one hour behind my eyes
and see the joy a clown brings to a patient, there would be a clown
in every hospital in the world, she says. And that would
truly be health care reform.
presentation, which came with the assurance that the program would
cost the hospital nothing, the HaHaS Healing and Humor at
Southwest were born.
of therapists, nurses, doctors and staff don their red noses, pouty
red lips and costumes every Wednesday for clown rounds.
a room, Nurse Ducky asks if the patient is up for a visit.
assume everybody wants to see us, but just to be sure, we ask,
she says. Women in labor dont usually respond well.
Upon a yes,
she sprays a stream of bubbles to announce the group and drags her
little red wagon full of fun into the room. Once there, the clowns
all chat with the patient and entertain in their own unique way.
finds the beat with her electronic drum machine, Ima Green Frogg
makes whats buggin them disappear in her
magical scarf, while Dr. Cat Scan checks for funny bones, and on
and on. Quackers usually gets in bed with the patient and passes
out big duck kisses.
leave, the clowns sing Happy HaHa to You and snap the
patients photo, a hand-drawn caricature left as
a reminder of the visit.
way people dont have to wonder if it was just the drugs when
they think they remember the group of funny people who stopped by,
with Patch Adams and one of the many children they met and laughed
with in China.
into the program, Graves did a clinical study on the effects of
humor on pneumonia patients (its very beneficial). She wrote
an abstract and presented it in full Nurse Ducky costume at the
American Association of Respiratory Care International Convention
in Las Vegas in November 1999.
real Patch Adams. The abstract of Graves study and presentation
was included in the AARC journal, and upon reading it, the physician
contacted her about joining him in China.
didnt have to ask me twice, she says.
to China changed her life forever, Graves says.
left, she waved goodbye to the hospital ward full of patients whose
heads were adorned with duck hats, and she renewed her commitment
to the role of humor in healing.
clowns bring healing energy to the bodies, minds and spirits of
the sick and their families, she says. They offer complementary
therapy to traditional medical treatments.
says she will continue to use humor to cope, to survive, to
heal, to grow and to pass on loving kindness.
on the day of my death, I will look back and know I laughed lovingly,
fully and well.