A group who visits patients to brighten their days and lend an ear is losing the opportunity to do what they've always done the way they've always done
it. Volunteers from Adventures in Caring have visited patients in hospitals and nursing homes dressed as Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy for more than 25
However, due to a request from two Santa Barbara hospitals, the Raggedys can no longer visit patients at those hospitals dressed in costume. This band
of day-brighteners and careful listeners is not letting the change stop them from touching lives. The compassion that they show lives in their hearts,
even when the heart doesn't adorn a rag doll costume.
How it all began
In 1983, Karen Fox, a single mother and cancer survivor, received a call from her doctor with news of abnormal test results. Fox was at work and her
boss, a doctor himself, walked into the office just as she hung up the phone. Not wanting him to know something was wrong, Fox looked down at her desk
and saw a pharmaceutical ad with a little girl holding the hand of a Raggedy Ann Doll.
She looked up and said, "What do you think of this idea? What if I would dress up like Raggedy Ann and I'd walk across the street to Cottage Hospital
and visit patients on my lunch hour."
When the doctor asked Fox about her intention, she said, "Their hearts will open up and they're going to feel my love and my unconditional support for
them at this traumatic time in their life."
That's how Fox's organization, Adventures in Caring, was born. The organization's mission is to lift the spirits of those who are sick and lonely and
to cultivate compassion in health care.
Since Fox first dressed as Raggedy Ann, volunteers have visited more than one million patients. The organization's training methods are used by more than
5,000 organizations nationwide to teach health care staff, students, and volunteers.
A Noozhawk article says when Santa Barbara and Goletta Valley Cottage Hospitals asked
Adventures in Caring volunteers to discontinue wearing the costumes after some patients complained the costumed visitors made them think they were
hallucinating, the group reinvented itself. For Cottage Health System patients, the program's name is "First Aid for the Heart and Soul." Volunteers at those hospitals now wear blue
bowling shirts and a button that reads, "I'm here to listen,"
instead of donning Raggedy outfits.
Four gifts health care providers can give
In their training, Adventures in Caring volunteers learn how to communicate with the seriously ill, giving four gifts to patients and their families.
All health care providers, no matter what they're wearing, can also give patients:
Noticing signs, signals, and clues indicating what is most important to a patient or patient's family
Letting patients and family members know they're appreciated as unique individuals
Extending the human touch of warmth, comfort, humor, and kindness
Accepting people as they are
First person accounts
We really enjoyed a video on the Adventures in Caring website in which volunteers, health care
providers, and patients talked about the organization's touch and why compassion is so important.
"I do this because I can make a connection with someone and they realize what's really important to them," volunteer Scott Crudelle says.
"I have fun, and at my age you ought to have fun," white-haired volunteer Bruce O'Neal says.
"I don't know what the magic is that takes place in a visit, but I know that it happens, and I wait for it," says Ker Massengale, R.N. "I live for it
from week to week."
"There's so much for a person to learn in this day and age no matter what role they're having in the health field, that it does become so easy to get
overwhelmed," says Jane Metiu, R.N., M.S.N., who teaches nursing at Santa Barbara City College. "It's very easy [for a health care provider] to lose
sight of why I'm here. … It's the person who is needing to be healed."
Two patients in the video summed up why it was so important to them to have someone show they care.
"[People think] 'Oh, she's sick or she don't have no sense,'" says one elderly female patient. "'She's 86 years old. She ain't got no sense.' That's what
they take it for granted, that people are that way, but they're not. 'Cause I'm past 80 and I think my brains is kind of working good."
Watch the video. You'll even wish you could reach through your monitor to give that spunky lady a hug.
"I was feeling like the frightened little girl that needed to be held at midnight with, you know, a nightmare, and she was there," says another elderly
woman of the Raggedy Ann who visited her. "And then when I told her I thought I was finally okay, I thought could go to sleep, that's when she left."
How do health care providers and volunteers in your organization show compassion? Do you have programs similar to this one?
Photo via Adventures in Caring