I remember the first time I saw the movie Patch Adams, starring the late great comedian Robin Williams. It moved me to tears, not just because it was such a powerful film that addressed a major issue plaguing our world (the shameful state of health “care”), but also because I knew that what I was witnessing was actually based on a true story.
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The late Robin Williams on the left & the real Patch Adams on the right.
For those who haven’t seen the movie, the story is about a man who commits himself to a mental institution because he is suicidal. While there, he learns that the doctors are not truly concerned for the well-being of their patients, which then this inspires Patch to enter the medical industry with the revolutionary approach of making health care free and available for all.
More than just making it free, however, Patch believes that patients should not be treated conventionally, but psychologically and spiritually; by making them feel love, laughter, friendship and safety, in spite of whatever disease or condition they may have. He does this by dressing up as a clown and using humor to connect with patients.
Unfortunately this choice is met by great opposition by the authorities who are hostile towards his unorthodox ways, and Patch must also navigate personal pain and loss during the process. The story is incredible. So if you haven’t seen the film, I recommend checking it out.
Afterwards I couldn’t help but wonder, who was this great man who pursued his convictions in spite of intense opposition? What was he doing now? And was his story accurate, as Hollywood is well reputed for entertainment and propaganda, rather than reliable history.
This is what inspired me to research the real Patch Adams.
“In one year when I was 18, I was hospitalized three times because I wanted to kill myself. I didn’t wanna live in a world of violence and injustice. And in the third hospitalization I had the realization, you don’t have to kill yourself, you can make revolution.” — Hunter ‘Patch’ Adams
Hunter Doherty “Patch” Adams is one of the most remarkable human beings I have ever discovered, and I’m not one to easily be impressed.
He has been engaged in his vision of free health care with love for over 42 years now, and during this time has even worked additional jobs to bring in additional income to ensure his vision of helping those in need does not die.
The Gesundheit! Institute has since gone global and expanded to more than 70 countries around the world, including Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine, Russia, Haiti, Sri Lanka, and a number of other places in the Middle East, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Patch Adams with Syrian refugees and a fellow clown worker inside a refugee camp/ Photo Credit: Nora Rowley
During this time, Patch has traveled abroad 250-300 days a year — for over 28 years — and hasn’t been home for longer than 2 weeks in a row. He also estimates having been at somewhere around 10,000 death bed’s of the sick and elderly, and holding several thousand children on the same day that they died from starvation… WOW… Just wow.
Photo: IDeA Foundation
As an activist myself, this man’s sacrifice (which I can almost guarantee he would never call it such, as what he does comes purely from a place of love) is humbling.
The feeling of holding someone as they pass from this life to whatever may be next is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to personally do, and this man has done it literally thousands of times. He throws himself into the darkest reaches of pain and injustice in our world, and reaches out to the most needy and oppressed among us. In spite of all his obstacles, he still pursues his vision and conviction without compromise.
Patch is undoubtedly one of the greatest activists in history, and the only reason why he is not recognized as such, is presumably because he openly frowns upon the government, mainstream media, big pharma, and the military industrial complex.
As you listen to his TEDx talk below, listen carefully to his words. His presentation style is not comparable to the powerful charisma and propaganda of a seasoned politician — since his energy has been invested in actually helping the world, rather than ruling it — but he does share great insights from a unique perspective that should command our attention;
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