Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ringling Bros. O.R.

I guess I found this so terrifying, that I could not write about it for two years, but some crazy Italians did a study in October of 2005 determining that the presence of a clown can reduce children's anxiety during operations.

Of course, the image that jumped into my head was similar to the Gumby Surgery skit on Monty Python's Flying Circus, only the Gumbys are in clown make-up and giant shoes, flailing about with scalpels. Maybe there is also a monkey somewhere. They often travel together, I hear.

I cannot think of anything more horrifying, and the thought that clowns don't scare the bejezzuz out of all children is beyond me.

The doctors took 40 children, around seven years old, and divided them into two groups: the "Clown Group" and the "Control Group." The clown group was graced by two clowns for 30 minutes in the waiting room and for 15 minutes in the operating room. They used magic tricks, music, games, puppets, and bubbles to entertain them. A parent was also present, thank goodness. The control group had only their parents with them. No clowns. Oh, and psychologists observed and rated the anxiety levels of the children. I am presuming that the psychologists were attempting to blend into the background and were not wearing squirting flowers or dressed up as Sigmund Freud.

The study showed that anxiety levels were the same in the waiting room for both groups, but that in the operating room, the clown group showed lower anxiety levels.

I may need some reports on the psychological well being of the psychologists who observed this experiment; it just does not sound objective to me. They could be pro clown. They could be clowns in their spare time. They could be marginally insane with severe emotional problems. Who knows?

It turns out that 84% if the health professionals involved called the clowns a disturbance in the operating room. Really? Clowns? A disturbance? Pratfalls in the operating room getting you down? Juggling clamps and retractors not such a good idea after all?

I can't imagine walking into a waiting room and finding clowns. I don't know how I would have reacted as an child; I would hope that I would have burst into tears immediately in response to something foreign and scary in the already unfamiliar environment, but who knows? I know that there is a lovely slide of me as a child of around 3 perhaps, screaming and crying on the lap of the most terrifying Santa Claus ever, so I have reason to hope that my reaction to clowns in the operating room would have been similar.

What's next? Male strippers in the delivery room?

For future reference, I would not appreciate that, either.

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