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November 28, 2014

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Patch Adams’ antics bring brief respite to young patients at Summerlin Hospital

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Leila Navidi

Dr. Patch Adams, left, visits Dailyn Harper, 21 months old, who is sick with sickle cell disease, her mother Cinnamon Harper and her sister Devyn Harper, 3, in pink, all of North Las Vegas, as Touro University student Michael Popov helps out with the clowning at the Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 1, 2012.

Dr. Patch Adams in Vegas

Dr. Patch Adams clowns with pediatric nurse practitioner Nikki Cuasay at the Children's Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas on Thursday, March 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

The huge clown feet, chicken hat and red clown nose were dead giveaways: This was no ordinary doctor’s visit to the Children’s Medical Center at Summerlin Hospital.

Kids at the center’s pediatric and children’s intensive care units received a fun surprise Thursday afternoon when Dr. Hunter "Patch" Adams and his clown entourage made their rounds.

The doctor is known for his belief that happiness and laughter are key in the healing process. He was portrayed by Robin Williams in the 1998 feature film “Patch Adams.”

Adams stopped to interact with every child he saw in the hospital, cracking jokes, playing with props and singing songs to them. He also visited nine young patients who are mostly confined to their hospital rooms.

Anne Schenk, Children’s Medical Center administrative director, said patients, family and staff appreciated Adams’ gesture. Patients in the units range in age from newborns to 18-year-olds and suffer from diseases like cancer, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and other life-threatening and debilitating ailments.

“I think it means a lot to the kids and the staff,” said Schenk. “We have some kids that spend a lot of time here, and not just the kids, but the parents. They spend a lot of their time just waiting. Having a distraction like this is very helpful.”

Never stepping out of character, Adams recruited nurses and staff to participate in a farting game and other antics. In the hallway, Adams ran into 17-year-old Bradley Titsworth, who has been suffering for three years from Crohn’s disease. Flare-ups send him to the hospital.

“It sucks sometimes, sometimes it’s more painful, sometimes it’s not,” Titsworth said.

Adams and his clowns, in an effort to crack a smile from Titsworth, joked around with the teen, gave him a yellow clown nose and put a flower in his hair. The intended effect occurred; Titworth smiled.

“It was definitely different,” Titsworth said. “It was a lot better than just being in the bed all day.”

Moving across the hall, Adams spent time blowing up balloons and throwing a huge blue ball around with Cinnamon Harper and her 21-month-old daughter Dailyn.

Dailyn, who has sickle cell disease, was in the hospital for the second time this year after catching a cold that turned into a more serious virus. Harper stays with her daughter nightly and said the visit from the clowns was a breath of fresh air.

“It’s nice to kind of break up the day of having nurses come in and get her vitals and the breathing treatments,” said Harper. “Every time (Dailyn) sees medical staff come in, she immediately has a negative reaction because she’s used to getting blood work done and being poked numerous times. It’s nice to have a good change, positive energy come in here and entertain them.”

Adams was in Las Vegas to talk Thursday morning with medical students at Touro University Nevada. After his visit with the young patients at Summerlin Hospital, Adams was to deliver a lecture at Circus Circus.

Michael Popov, a first-year medical student at Touro University Nevada and a volunteer clown, said he could relate to Adams and his work.

“He’s got a great outlook,” Popov said. “It’s great to see the kids smile. There was a child that the nurses said wasn’t responding to anybody in the longest while, and finally she was smiling and taking off our little noses.”

Popov spent the end of his visit entertaining Dailyn and her sister, blowing bubbles and letting them play with his foam hammer.

“It’s great to open up,” Popov said. “When I see people happy, it makes me really happy inside, too, and I think that’s the drive that Patch has had for all these years.”

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