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WYNNEWOOD, Pa. (CBS) — Some funny-looking visitors at Lankenau Hospital are helping patients feel better through laughter. Spending time in a hospital can be difficult, but thanks to some special clowning around, patients on the Main Line get to take a few breaks from their medical worries.
Peg West is having a few laughs after colon surgery at the hospital.
“You forget about your aches and pains,” said West. “It’s a diversion that makes you feel better.”
The feel-good smiles come with visits from the Bumper T. Hospital Clowns.
The “smiletologists” spread out through the hospital, where patients and families are often dealing with all kinds of physical and emotional pain.
“We lighten the environment in the hospital,” said Esther Gushner, the clown program’s co-founder. “We remind people of their personhood. They are not their disease and we nourish their spirit.”
She continued, “It’s not just patients and their families, but doctors, nurses work very hard and how about the person who pushed the broom? Everybody is a candidate for a smile sticker.”
The clowns have to go through a special training program to ensure they act appropriate, with sensitivity, and understand limits inside a medical setting.
“Every opportunity you have to smile through, this is a real opportunity,” said patient Patricia Guntick.
Guntick is at the hospital a lot, being treated as an outpatient for lung cancer. She and her husband always enjoy interacting with the clowns.
“They’re compassionate, they understand what you’re going through, brighten your day,” she said.
The clowns say it’s not just about helping people feel better, this also gives them a big pay back.
“I think I am a much better person. I leave at the end of the day with so much gratitude,” said clown Marilyn Bamash. “I cannot change what they’re going through, I can’t change their situation, but I can change the fact that I’ve put a smile on their face and made them calm down and relax.”
The clowns, who are in a number of different hospitals, say in addition to making people laugh, they spend a lot of time listening.