A female clown stands next to a little boy and his mother, encouraging them before the heart surgery

Fearless on the way to heart surgery

03.July 2020

Fearless on the way to heart surgery

*This happened BEFORE the COVID-19 lockdown.*

When a child has to go through heart surgery, it’s overwhelming for the entire family: waiting around for the surgery, receiving the needed medicine and eventually saying goodbye in the pre-operation area. Little Luca, only two years old, had a surgery in the German Heart Center in Berlin. It was a stressful and frightening event for his parents, but the RED NOSES clown Brischitt helped a lot. Luca’s mother narrates the following:

A female RED NOSES clown holds a tiny material animal in her had and watches the doctors prepare a little boy for surgery
Gregor Zielke

„Luca had a hole in his heart. The wall between the ventricles was missing. His surgery was scheduled for the end of August. Luca doesn’t like doctors. This is why we bought a medical kit to help him prepare playfully for the coming hospital stay. Luca’s teddy bear had a long-term illness and needed a clinical thermometer and a stethoscope.

As we arrived at the hospital for the scheduled surgery, our son said: “Luca ill”. Although Luca was only two and a half years old, he still knew that he was in the hospital. This impacted both me and my husband a lot. I was so afraid knowing that Luca’s heart would be stopped during the surgery. Awful!

A clown to help against fear

The closer we were getting to the surgery appointment, the more I was trying to simply function as a machine and suppress my emotions. How was I to cry in front of my child? I gave my very best to function somehow on the day of the surgery. I tried to smile at Luca and be funny, but he still noticed that something wasn’t right. Then the surprise: clown Brischitt from RED NOSES came for a visit. I initially thought that a clown wouldn’t help at all, given the circumstances. Then we realized that we had to wait longer than expected for the surgery and Brischitt helped us bridge the time gap.

Brischitt interacted with Luca with the help of her stuffed animal, the rat Gustav. Luca was in bed and hugged me, while Gustav approached my son playfully and carefully. Luca actually got a little distracted. We couldn’t have managed to do so as naturally as Brischitt did, because the many worries related to the surgery left us without words. Brischitt made everything seem easy. She knew all the procedures and basically took us by the hand. She had so many ideas: we playfully transformed a syringe into a moon rocket. Luca was so fascinated! Brischitt was very empathetic towards our son and noticed immediately if he didn’t like something and just did something else instead.

Doctors, the mother and the RED NOSES female clown stand around the bed where little Luca is prepared for surgery.
Gregor Zielke

Now it’s time

Brischitt accompanied us to the pre-operation area, where the anaesthetist sedated our son. I was holding Luca in my arms at that point. We then put him carefully on the surgical table and waited until he fell asleep. Brischitt stood by us as we were standing around the table. She turned to Luca and said: “Look, Gustav is also sleeping!” We made everything look very normal, so Luca wouldn’t notice anything. Then the doctor said: “It’s time! You can leave now”.

Brischitt said to me in the elevator: “You did a really good job!”. At that, I had to start crying and finally allowed my tears to flow. Brischitt held me tightly as I was weeping. It was so wonderful to have her there! I don’t know if I would have had the strength to cheer up Luca during the time leading to the surgery. It’s hard to bring joy to others when one is not doing well at all. Brischitt took the lead and sensed what we and Luca needed. Perhaps Brischitt helped us as parents more than she helped Luca. We were facing an extreme situation and we were incredibly tense. After five long hours, the surgery finally came to an end. Luca is doing well. It was a bad day that ended well.”

*Story from: www.rotenasen.de