Local kids getting chemo given the gift of laughter

11:09 PM, Dec 13, 2010   |    comments
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By Kay Quinn, Healthbeat Reporter

St. Louis, MO (KSDK) -- You've heard the saying, "laughter is the best medicine." A California paramedic is so convinced that's true, he invented a toy that will be given to sick children in St. Louis this week.

It's another example of how a dose of humor is something the medical community takes very seriously. Especially on a hospital ward full of IVs and chemo bags and the constant beeping of machines.

The chemotherapy floor at St. Louis Children's Hospital can be a tough place to be.  But if you listen carefully this week, you'll hear another sound; the sound of uncontrolled laughter.

"I love it; it's funny," says patient Nicholas Long.

Any free toy is a good toy if you're a kid.  But this toy is Laffy Laffalot. It's specifically designed to put a smile on the faces of children with cancer.

"Okey dokey, let me turn him on," says Nicholas.

Eight-year-old Nicholas is being treated for a brain tumor. He gets a course of treatment once a week. For him, Laffy Laffalot is a great distraction.

"Yeah, took my mind off of my course," says Nicholas.

But studies show there are actual physical benefits to laughter. It's one of the reasons clown doctors regularly visit the ward.

"It helps you exercise your muscles," says a clown doctor named Dr. Tickles. "It increases your blood flow; it decreases the release of some stress hormones."

Austin Jaros-Riley agrees. And this 15-year-old would know. He's been treated for a rare type of leukemia most of his life.

"Yeah, it does, it releases a lot of energy on me, releases a lot of energy," says Austin.

The National Children's Cancer Society is so convinced of laughter as medicine its donated more than 40 of these toys to the hospital to be given away at St. Louis Children's Hospital.

"There isn't a whole lot of laughter when you're a child, or for moms or dads or kids being treated for cancer," says Lori Millner, director of marketing for the National Children's Cancer Society. "And yes, I think it really works. You can see it just puts a smile on everybody's face."

Nicholas is already planning ahead. He's cooking up a practical joke involving Laffy Laffalot.

There's even a button for recording your own laugh.

Steve Islava, a firefighter and paramedic from Newport Beach, California, who invented Laffy.  He specifically wanted to reach out to children with cancer, so he's donating a portion of all of these sold to the National Children's Cancer Society.


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