MOBILE — If you happen to be wandering the halls of the University of South Alabama’s School of Medicine, hear music and someone counting to the beat…5, 6, 7, 8…it’s probably Dr. Fun and her colleagues. Dr. Fun, also known as Associate Professor of Pediatrics Lynn Batten, M.D., earned the nickname about a year ago, but what may seem like all fun and games is truly a mission from the heart to bring joy and better health to her patients and their families.
“We have so much fun doing this, but I will never forget how it all got started,” Dr. Batten explained. “To me, I feel like I’m on a mission from God. I’m just going to say it because that’s exactly what I feel like it is. Dr. Fun’s Dance Party USA may have started out as one video for just one patient, but it’s so much bigger and has touched so many more lives.”
It all began with one patient. A 5-year-old little girl named Synclaire had captured the heart of Dr. Batten and her staff. Synclaire had only one ventricle and had already experienced three surgeries and pretty much every complication possible in her short life by the time Dr. Batten sent her to UAB to be wait-listed for a heart transplant. Eleven weeks later, Sinclair was still waiting. The days grew long and the nights longer.
“Her mother would check in with us every now and then, and we would call her and see how things were going. One day, her mother said she really needed a smile, so I asked what her daughter’s favorite song was because we wanted to make a dance video for her,” Dr. Batten said. Armed with Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” and her son’s talents at filming for YouTube, Dr. Batten and her staff choreographed their first dance video. It wasn’t very long, perhaps only 90 seconds, but all the staff who had worked with and gotten to know little Synclaire had a chance to dance for her.
As Dr. Batten’s son was working to edit the video to post online, the physicians at UAB called. Synclaire wasn’t doing well, but word spread like wildfire about the video the USA team was putting together for her. Dr. Batten’s mission was to have the video posted that evening. At that point, she said her greatest fear was that little Synclaire would pass away before seeing it.
“I was on my way across the bay to a dinner meeting thinking all these things like I hoped she likes it, I hope it makes her and her family smile, and then something just hit me — what if she doesn’t get to see it? What if she dies before we can get this online for her? That was the most horrible feeling! But, that entire drive made me realize there are so many other kids out there who might like to see their doctors dancing around and having a little fun. We could do videos for kids in the hospital and they could leave comments for us like who they would like to see in our next video. All these thoughts just started pouring out about what we could do next,” Dr. Batten said.
Dr. Batten emailed Synclaire’s mother the link to the video that night. The UAB staff called her at 10 the next morning to let her know Synclaire had coded. She was on life support for about a week before she passed away. She said there was an urgency that night to upload the video that she couldn’t quite understand until she received that phone call.
“Her mother told me later that Synclaire did see it and it ‘made her heart shine.’ I don’t know what that means but this is why I truly feel like this is my mission from God,” Dr. Batten said.
After that first video, Dr. Fun’s Dance Party USA was officially born with an expanded mission to not only help her young patients by lifting their spirits during long hospital stays but to also motivate them to move and exercise to stay healthy. The staff who participate in the videos have had so much fun that they continue dancing on their breaks after they’ve seen what moving during the day can do for their health as well.
“We’re going to keep this going!” Dr. Batten laughed. “There are other kids that might get some joy from watching their physicians and medical staff dance around for a couple of minutes, plus it’s worth it if it brings our patients just a little bit of joy. We want the kids to make requests so we can keep going forward. One of our patients requested ‘Shake It Off’ by Taylor Swift because she wanted something more upbeat to have on her phone so she could stay on her treadmill a little longer each day. That was a lesson for me, too. So now when I tell patients they have to exercise more, I ask what their favorite song is. Two patients have asked to be in the videos with us, and that makes it even more special for us as a staff!”
If you’d like to get your groove on with Dr. Batten, check out her YouTube channel, Dr. Fun’s Dance Party USA. Log in to leave comments or even make a request!