My story with Payamedicos [Clown Medics]* began in 2005 in Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina, when our second child was born. Bernabé arrived in our lives with many complications. He was a premature baby with Down’s syndrome and a low birth weight of just over two and a half pounds (1.2 kilograms). He had to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for three long months. During this time, I had my first encounter with Clown Medics. I experienced this ministry as the delightful work of God, colored with humor and love.
We returned to our home in the Chaco with Bernabé in better health. But because of Bernabé’s special needs, I had to make many changes in my ministry of visiting indigenous communities with my husband, Esteban, and our daughter, Paloma.
Susana Daniela Carrasco performing as Doctora Amelia Alegremia. Photo provided
One day when Esteban and I were praying, God brought to my mind the Patch Adams movie. I felt a confirmation in my heart that this would be our road to travel.
I began to take a course to become a clown, and soon after began a relationship with Clown Medics, assuming the persona of Doctora Amelia Alegremia. I feel privileged to be able to get close to people who are going through complicated illnesses and find a connection with them. And in that connection, we find that there is a coming and going, that the bridge between us has traffic in both directions. The clown medic offers her presence, and the recipient (the patient) can accept it or not. The clown medic accepts the other person’s response, doesn’t impose anything. She respects whatever the recipient of her attentions gives – a look, a smile, a “thank you,” or “not today.” Following a positive response, an interaction begins that involves everyone – the clown medic, the patient, the family and relatives, the health care providers, the housekeepers, and any others present.
The clown medics visit in groups of two, three or more. Although we don’t take our show into homes, we are available to do improvisation and work extemporaneously. For that reason, we have begun a course called Payateatralidad, or Clown Theatrics, where we introduce students to techniques of clowning adapted to a medical setting.
I see God’s good sense of humor in various situations.
- My clown medic companions are not Christians; some even claim to be atheists. But I see that they live and practice values of God’s kingdom without being aware of it. They are like the hands, the eyes, the heart, the laughter and love of God in the hospital.
- When I have to see a patient that we have worked with week after week, at times, I don’t know how to continue the relationship, what to propose to “un-dramatize their medical situation,” or what to do to “promote an optimistic and sustaining spirit in their time of need.” Then I talk to God and say, “Hello. Please, I’m asking you to give me ideas, to guide me as to where to go with this person and with the clown. PLEASE!” And the answer appears in the instant of that intervention – not before or after – but in the exact moment. God is lovely!
- Many times, God’s humor and emotions appear in those who are suffering, in those unable to communicate verbally, in the one who is lonely, in the one no one has visited ... The clown medics appear, and magic happens through eye contact. The smiles that flow in both directions are beautiful, priceless.
Clown Medics (Payamedicos) is a play on the words. In Spanish, only one letter changes in the word “paramedic” and the word for “clown medic” (payamèdico).