Two female clowns stand together in a room and one is touching the ear of the other in a playful way as if it were testing her hearing ability.

Ukulele: Four Strings of Joy

27.January 2020

Ukulele: Four Strings of Joy

One day, I find myself welcomed to the hospital by beautiful sounds of guitar that catch my attention just as I come in. I know exactly where this is coming from, so I open the door of the room gently. Simon is sitting on his bed, playing the guitar, being absolutely absorbed in himself. It takes some minutes until he finally notices me, but Simon later rewards me with a charming smile for waiting.

I am a healthcare clown and my job is to bring joy and laughter to children in hospitals. Red nose, pink glasses that shrank in the washing machine, colorful scarves and a plushy frog sneaking out of my pocket – this is me, Nurse Almond.

I still remember the day I first met Simon as he was sitting on his hospital bed. I perceived him to be a quiet but very attentive boy. He was in great pain, going through difficult cycles of chemotherapy and it was clear to me that he was not in the mood for laughing. However, when he saw my ukulele, his face brightened up.

“I’m learning how to play guitar,” Simon said.

I introduced him to my ukulele and encouraged my new friend to try himself this four-stringed instrument. At first, Simon was hesitant. However, when I returned to his room half an hour later, I found him completely immersed in his new “toy”.  

During my next visits, I did not have to ask Simon what he wanted to do. I just gave him my ukulele right away. I knew that Simon liked a song called “Mandolina”, so I learned the chords and then showed him how to play. We created a band – Simon and I were ukulele-players; my clown partner would play the flute and Simon’s mum was our manager. Everyone had a role to play and it was exciting for all of us.

On one occasion, I borrowed Simon the ukulele for a whole week. When I came back to the hospital, I could hear him play from the front door. Soon, Simon was even playing better than I was!

After one of our visits, Simon’s father stopped me on the hospital hallway. He wanted to express his gratitude. He told us that Simon normally does not speak much, probably because he was very often in great pain. The music was the only thing that seemed to have his undivided attention and made him forget his pain for a while. I was extremely pleased to hear that. In that very moment, my partner and I decided to give Simon a special gift – one of our ukuleles, so that he can play anytime he wanted.

Simon finished his treatment at the hospital and I have not seen him since, which, considering the nature of our work is certainly a good thing. I will never forget how we transformed silence and pain into joyful music. I will always remember Simon’s smile when he showed me the new song that he had learned on the ukulele.

Henrietta Rab / Nurse Almond

*Story from: