Timm Metivier (Dr. Presto) performs a magic trick in the ER for a patient as Mila Triblante, nurse, and Lori Smith (Dr. Moonbeam) look on.
photo courtesy of Miami Children's Hospital

Think there's nothing funny about being in the hospital?

Then you've never had a kitty-cat scan, a red-nose transplant or a chocolate-milk transfusion - all common procedures administered by the Clown Care Unit of Miami Children's Hospital.

The Big Apple Team at Miami Children's Hospital is the only clown unit operating in Florida.
photo courtesy of Miami Children's Hospital

The CCU's mission is to inject a little humor and light into what can be a scary experience for kids and their families.

Miami Children's isn't the only hospital in Florida to have a bunch of clowns working there, but it is the only one to have a Big Apple Circus program.

What distinguishes the New York-based Big Apple program is that all of the performers are professional clowns, said John Lynch - also known as Dr. Pescado - supervisor of the Miami team. Other hospitals might have volunteer clowns or hospital staff who also clown around. A few have full-time clowns.

Lynch is an actor and a four-year veteran of the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus. He's been with the hospital clown unit for about two and a half years. The team also includes a professional magician and a couple of storytellers.

Big Apple teams usually work in children's hospitals or the pediatrics departments of regular medical centers, he said. The seven-member Miami team is at the hospital four days a week and pulls approximately five-hour shifts, visiting kids in the intensive care unit, bone-marrow transplant center, emergency room, physical therapy unit and the outpatient clinic.

Lynch enjoys his work and considers laughter and play - at the appropriate time and place - an important part of patient care.

Humor, he said, "helps remind patients and their families that they are more than just their illness."