Perhaps there’s something to the age-old expression, “laughter is the best medicine.” Research shows that laughter can improve immune systems, relieve pain and stress, and increase personal satisfaction. In fact, even a fake laugh can bring on these benefits.
For those at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital, laughter is found every other Sunday with Jerry and Martha Dodson. For more than 14 years, the couple has dressed as clowns and spread cheer to both patients and staff.
“My wife and I were retired and looking for a way to give back,” said Jerry. “I was interested in clowning, and my wife came along for the ride. Birthday parties didn’t interest us, but when we learned about medical clowning, we found our calling.” Having completed volunteer training at Mary Immaculate, the couple created a schedule and start spreading cheer. Their day starts at the third-floor nursing station handing out chocolates to the nurses. “The employees love the interaction and what they do for our patients,” said Karen Jowers, phlebotomist/medic.
They then visit patients, families and friends all across the hospital, handing out back scratchers and smiles.
“Yes, we will literally hand people smiles,” Jerry laughed. “Sometimes when you’re not feeling good, it’s just hard to smile. This ‘smile on a stick’ gives some people a smile when they can’t muster one up.”