Through the yellow balloon glasses
Being sick and laughing doesn't seem to go together. Illness is not always fun, but happy moments can make it easier to bear. Hospital clowns give seriously ill people such great moments.
"There's a clown!" the little boy shouts across the dark hallway of the clinic, his eyes shining. He knows exactly why he's happy, because when Julia Hartmann, aka Clown Julchen, comes, you experience the greatest things. Only a little later the young patient will marvel at the wondrous magic powers dormant within him - turning confetti into colored spots on a cloth and then conjuring the whole thing backwards - nothing easier than that!
The fifteen-year-old boy next door, on the other hand, vehemently defends himself at first because he "is already much too alt=""Image" for a clown". Then Julchen just visits mum and makes her a flower, the "Laughter may not always add years to your life, but it will add life to your years"
(Author unknown) needs no water at all and as little sun as possible. The "old" patient still gets huge balloon glasses that make the world look all yellow, and he soon completely forgot his doubts. He enthusiastically plays music and talks shop about the raven from Julchen's huge old suitcase.
To hell and back
Julia Hartmann is a clinic clown by conviction. She can understand exactly what it looks like in the little patients and their relatives, because she went through the same hell with her family. When daughter Nicole was diagnosed with bone cancer at the age of four, the Hartmanns' lives changed completely from one day to the next. After many dark months, the girl survived the illness, but the price was high: she lost her left leg.
After this difficult time, a wish matured in mother Julia, with which she wanted to give her life a new meaning: "I'll be a clown and go to the ward with my trumpet!" The two daughters were also so enthusiastic about the idea that they actively participated from the start. And so Julchen has been cheering up seriously ill children in the Heidelberg and Mannheim children's clinics for the past seven years, mostly together with her two "magic mice".
Until she found her own style, Clown Julchen's great role model was the American clown doctor legend Patch Adams. About thirty years ago, the doctor decided to put a red nose on his nose while he was at work, thereby laying the foundation for hospital clownery. The movement only really gained momentum in the mid-1980s, when Michael Christensen's Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit formed a larger group of professional hospital clowns in New York. In the early 1990s, the idea finally spilled over to Europe, and now in almost every country in the world, clinic clowns regularly distract the seriously ill in hospitals from their suffering.
Not an easy mission
Anyone who is on the road in Mission red nose must be a die-hard idealist, because you can hardly make a living from this work. There are no permanent positions for clinic clowns in hospitals - they work on a freelance basis. In Germany, as almost everywhere else in the world, only support associations and private donors pay for the clowns, and so it sometimes happens that there is simply no more money for the clown.
Every clinic clown has to work out the acceptance of doctors and nursing staff through slow approach and a lot of sensitivity. Because sometimes they fear that the funny figure could mess up everyday clinical life too much. A hospital clown is often simply not taken seriously (which he rarely wants to do, but of course it is in this case), because he usually has no medical training. Rather, the clinical buffoons are trained clowns, actors, musicians, dancers, but also committed people with non-artistic professions such as teachers, lawyers or pastors. They have acquired basic therapeutic knowledge privately. The University of Haifa in Israel, on the other hand, wants to enhance the role of clowns and is therefore now offering the first bachelor's degree for hospital clowns. He integrates courses for the necessary medical background with a classical theater education.
So a hospital clown faces all sorts of problems, but when he's made a sick child laugh, he knows it's worth it. Of course, the best thing is when a child is released, says Julchen. "If the clowns are still there, then I can do it too!"
(Relapsed girl with cancer) "Now that gives me goosebumps," she says, probably thinking about a specific layoff – that of her daughter Nicole. "The clowning gives hope," she feels anew with every visit. One day, for example, Julchen and her magic mice met a girl in the ward again years later because she had suffered a relapse. She said: "If the clowns are still there, then so can I!"
How humor and laughter affect the body has unfortunately not yet been sufficiently scientifically researched. The fact that laughter is good for the sick in particular - even if it is solely due to a psychosomatic effect - can often be experienced without scientific proof. But why is there so little research on this topic?
In practice, it is already difficult to standardize experiments, because humor means something different to everyone. What makes one person laugh may be repulsive or even offensive to another. That's why the work of clinic clowns is always a tightrope walk.
Despite all the obstacles, there are now a few studies that indicate positive physiological effects. According to this, humor lowers the levels of some stress hormones, blood pressure and pain in general. On the other hand, humor boosts the immune system via increased levels of natural killer cells and released immunoglobulin A.
Real laughter raises the spirits - and that is particularly important when an illness overshadows life or even seriously threatens it. But is laughter really appropriate in the face of death? "Laughter may not always add years to your life, but it will add life to your years," writes an unknown author. Freely translated: Laughter can't prolong life, but it makes the years we've been granted a lot more worth living.