Anibal Ortiz / KPCC
Jeanie McAulay, (Lady Bug), left, and Joyce Payne (Joy), wait outside an exam room before walking to the transitional care unit at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., Monday, December 11, 2012. The two volunteer as clowns at the hospital in attempt to bring cheer to patients young and old.
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Brandy Moss-Scott was putting up her Christmas tree, when she twisted her foot, broke her leg, tore a ligament and shattered her ankle in three places. Now, she’s stuck in a hospital bed at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. She passed the time on Monday by watching TV in her empty hospital room, when she received some unexpected visitors—volunteer clowns Joy and Lady Bug.
Joy, decked out in her red and green clown outfit, walked in the room, with her green elf shoes jingling all the way.
“Would you like Christmas joy and Christmas cheer?” Joy asked.
“Yes,” Moss-Scott said.
“But you got to say 1-2-3,” Joy insisted.
“1-2-3,” Moss-Scott said.
“Merry Christmas!” Joy and fellow clown Lady Bug cheered, as they threw confetti on the patient.
Lady Bug and Joy are part of a team of 18 volunteer clowns at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. The center said it is the only Southern California hospital to hold its own clown school, where they teach people how to become clowns and offer additional training for those that want to become hospital volunteers. Hospital officials said the clowns bring laugher and spirit to their staff and patients.
Dr. Vimal Murthy, a burn and wound surgeon, said it has been documented that patients’ emotional state is linked with healing. Some burns can be so severe that patients are bandaged head to toe.
“They lose their sense of identity and sense of autonomy, so they’re looking for anything that can be possibly out there that can lift their spirits,” Murthy said.
Murthy said he looks to the clowns for some inspiration. One of his favorite clown moves he uses on young patients is the “I got your nose” trick, where a person grabs a child’s nose and then puts their thumb in between their index and middle finger, so it looks like a kid’s nose.
“I’ll try to cheer them up in certain ways that full disclosure, I copied that routine from one of our clowns,” Murthy said.
Lady Bug the garden clown’s real name is Jeanie McAulay. She was a financial analyst, but four years ago, she attended the hospital’s clown school and the rest was history.
“You get so much more than you give,” McAulay said. “You just get smiles all the time and it’s such a great feeling. When you’re putting your makeup on, you start to smile. You feel good and you feel different.”
She no longer wears suits to work. Instead she sports a curly rainbow wig, decorated with butterflies. Her uniform is a pink clown outfit with a collar that looks like large sunflower petals. When she performs, she hands out spoons that say, “Doctor’s orders—laughter every day.”
It appears to be working. Patient Moss-Scott said the clowns made her day brighter. Moss-Scott is a singer and normally, she would be on stage. But this year, she appreciated getting a performance from her hospital bed.
“If you guys bring everyone else as much joy as you brought me right now, it’s going to be a great Christmas, because this is beautiful love,” Moss-Scott said.