Health Beat: Funnyatrics: Clownin' around to help kids

Health Beat: Funnyatrics: Clownin' around to help kids

A hospital can be a scary place for children. Between the needles, surgeries, and strangers, it's no wonder many children don't look forward to their visits. 

Some hospitals, however, are now starting to have special staff members to help make kids' stays better.

Every day, they put on face paint, red noses, and over-sized shoes, but these clowns are not headed to the circus. They're headed to the hospital.

"Dr. Slappy" and "Dr. Monday" visit sick kids. The "Funnyatrics" clowns are hospital staff members and permanent fixtures at the Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

Five days a week, they make their rounds with one goal: make kids laugh!

"Once they start laughing, they feel better. There's no way you can't feel a little better if you're laughing," said Tiffany Riley, AKA "Dr. Slappy."

Four-year-old cancer patient Stephen has had a rough morning, but some bubbles from the clowns changed that.

"One of our challenges and our goals is to empower the child," said Dick Monday, AKA "Dr. Monday."

Studies show laughter can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve alertness, and boost the immune system.

"You can see it when the clowns enter the room and leave the room. The child is different," explained Dr. David Podeszwa, Children's Medical Center of Dallas.

Podeszwa said the clowns are often paged when a child won't eat or needs a shot. 

"It's a way of distracting them.  It's a way of putting them at ease," he said.

"Dr. Slappy" and "Dr. Monday" are both veterans of the Ringling Brothers Circus. Once a month, the clowns meet for an "emotional hygiene" session, where they talk about the difficult emotions they encounter while working with sick kids.

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