Positive Aging

Clowning Around

At my home in Anacortes, I am known as Blake Thomson to my wife Jeane and our chocolate lab Maggie; but at the Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville, Washington, I am known as Dr. StumbleMore. I am a Volunteer, Hospital Caring Clown.

What does a Hospital Caring Clown do?

While all of the medical personnel in a hospital deal with healing a person, I deal with the part of the patient that is not sick. My training enables me to complement the treatment being offered by the medical professionals. I also provide a momentary smile that takes a patient or staff members mind off the serious business at hand.

Just imagine, you’re lying in a hospital bed and a man in bright colored hospital scrubs, with purple and white striped socks, very large purple and yellow saddle shoes, a gently painted clown face, a small red nose, and a stethoscope around his neck with a large ear on the “hearing” side, asks your permission to come in for a visit? Wouldn’t that make you smile? Here are some examples of hospital visits I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

While on rounds, I met the son and daughter of a very sick man. They appreciated my visiting them, and told me that I was welcome to say hello to their father.They warned me, however, that he was not responding at all. After entering the room,I introduced myself,and asked him his first name. He opened his eyes, and smiled as he reached his hand out to mine. We talked with our eyes for a couple of minutes. As I began to gather my things to go, I told him how much I enjoyed visiting with him. He then closed his eyes, and went back to sleep. We had made a heart/mind connection.

On another occasion, the nurses informed me that a woman patient was in need of a smile. I went to her room and, as I always do, asked if I could come in for a visit. She warily said, “Yes” and we met.We talked about her situation, her family, and how she felt. I checked her funny bone with my “ear stethoscope,” and discovered it was functioning correctly. I was also able to flush her IV with a miniature, flushing toilet to make it work better for her. Lastly, I performed an emergency, red nose transplant. I then presented her with a photograph of our visit. As I bid her goodbye, she was relaxed and smiling.

Another time, as I was entering the hospital to begin rounds,a male nurse came out of the surgical suite and told me, ” I need a hug.”We hugged, he said,”thank you” and promptly turned around and walked back into the surgical area. These are just a few examples of what it is like to do rounds as a Hospital Caring Clown.I realize that I may never know all of the positive effects of my visits, but I do know that I make a big difference in the way both patients and staff feel when we meet at the hospital. Just the sight of me will generally take the persons mind off of what is going on, and relieves their stress and anxiety.

I have been a volunteer caring clown for over 9 years. I graduated from Clown College in Minnesota. I majored in Caring Clowning and have continued to hone my skills each year since. In 2006,I became a certified trainer for the Bumper “T” Caring Clown group.This group has trained over 150 volunteers, and serves 32 hospitals all over the United States.

I have been doing rounds at Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville for the past 3 years. Prior to that, I was a Caring Clown at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital in Salinas, California.

As a member of the The Bumper “T” Caring Clowns, I am trained to assist in setting up new programs in hospitals and to train new Caring Clowns.I also give talks to groups on what Caring Clowning is all about. I hope that I have intrigued a few of you to consider this very rewarding avocation.