Beyond the Wand: An Interview with Sean McCarthy – Hospital Magician

We sat down with Sean to discuss how he got involved with Open Heart Magic, his first experience in the hospital as a Hospital Magician, and his take on the Hospital Magician opportunity.

Sean McCarthy Hospital Magician

Q: How did you hear about Open Heart Magic?

A: A family friend has cerebral palsy. The family writes a mini blog to update everyone.  One day, they wrote that “the hospital magician” was coming.  I couldn’t believe it. I’d been looking for a way to give back and I had done a little magic in the past.  Later, when I saw a posting for Hospital Magician Volunteers, I knew this was meant to be.

Q: What made you decide to become a Volunteer Hospital Magician?

A: Our son was in the NICU for 40 days after he was born.  He’s a healthy four-year-old now. But I remember the stress I felt back then as a parent and how the nurses helped us through.  I think another reason is that my cousin Katie passed away at age 13 from leukemia.  These experiences made me want to find a way to help both patients and their families in difficult situations.

Q:  How did it feel walking into your first patient room?

A:  I could not have been more nervous!  For my job, I do a lot of public speaking and talking to high-level executives.  But that’s nothing compared to facing your first kid in a hospital room.

Q:  What was your first experience doing magic like?

A:  I walked into the hospital room and saw a boy about 8 years old with his parents.  They all smiled and seemed happy to see me.  I did a couple tricks. The boy was smiling, so I did some more.  Then I taught him some tricks.  Afterwards, I thought “Wow, that went great!”  I went on to see 6 or 7 more kids that day.

Q: What happened later that evening?

A:  I was finishing paperwork in the volunteer room.  When I got up to leave, the father of the boy from the first room was standing on the other side of the doors.  He was holding food, obviously planning for a long night.  He said: “Thank goodness I found you.  I want you to know that my wife and I think what you’re doing here is amazing.  That’s the first time we’ve seen our son smile since we’ve been here.  We can’t thank you enough.”

Q:  What do you get out of being a Volunteer Hospital Magician?

A: It puts everything in perspective.  It’s like when your kids are born and your outlook completely changes.  Doing this reminds you what’s important…how blessed you are to have healthy kids.  I’m positive I get more out of this than the kids I see.

Q: The hardest part of being a Hospital Magician?

A:  You never know what you’ll see when you walk through the door.  If you see a kid with no hair, then you have an idea of what this family is up against.

Q: What would you say to people thinking about volunteering for Open Heart Magic?

A: You don’t have to know magic. Most Hospital Magicians don’t know magic when they start. We train and teach you the magic.  It’s more about your ability to relate to kids and families.

If you have ever thought about giving back, this is giving back on the front line…working with kids one-on-one.  You see the end result of your contribution immediately.  You see the positive impact you’re making and it’s amazing.   These kids and families are in a situation no one wants to be in.  Even if it’s just for a few minutes, you help alleviate their anguish and make them feel good. There is no other place you can do this.

Q:  What are your other roles with OHM?

A:  There are lots of ways to get involved.  I’ve been a Hospital Magician for a year.  I also perform magic at special events like our annual benefit and at our charity running event registration. I’m on the Professional Board.  And now, I train new, incoming magicians.

I make a big time commitment but my wife fully supports what I’m doing and she volunteers as well.  My parents are now Super Friends of Open Heart Magic.  My whole family supports it.  I tell everyone I meet about it.

Q: Any final thoughts about Open Heart Magic?

A:  It’s a true front line organization. You can see the impact of fundraising from room to room to room. It’s unbelievable seeing the impact first-hand.  The mission is a living one.