Huntington’s Disease is a dreadful disease. A hereditary genetic disorder, it causes the muscles of those afflicted to seize and contract involuntarily, often violently. One patient I served recently in a local ICU suffers from this disease. She described her chorea (tremors) as “though her muscles try to pull away from her bones and tear through her skin.” Were it not for bed rails, she would find herself thrown onto the floor several times per week.
When I met Jerri, she had just completed her first respiratory therapy session since being admitted to the ICU. 36 hours earlier, chorea had attacked her so fiercely, that she was rushed to the hospital in respiratory failure. After my introduction, I began playing while Jerri’s muscles contracted and convulsed in continuous tremors. Still, she managed a peaceful smile as she closed her eyes to rest. After ten minutes, she held up her right arm and declared, “Do you see how my tremors have stopped?” I had noticed and marveled at the healing properties of the music. She lowered her arm and asked, “Could you play Amazing Grace?” I nodded and began playing her request followed by a medley of several traditional hymns.
I was monitoring her face and the ICU monitor as I played, when Jerri cried, “My God, I can open my hands!” Look at this! I can’t remember the last time I could do this. They look totally normal and my tremors have stopped!” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she closed her eyes and quietly sang along.
She told me how her hands are nearly always drawn and clenched and that she suffers from tremors almost constantly. Medications help, but she seldom finds relief for any length of time. She added, “If only you could play for me every day!”
Now I can’t claim that my music alone provided Jerri this respite. But I do know that therapeutic music, working with her medications, provided comfort and relief for that brief period of time. How I long for the day when the entire health care community recognizes the benefits and value of utilizing therapeutic music with conventional medical practices.
If you would help other patients experience peace in the midst of their suffering, would you share this post? Don’t do it for me, do it for those who suffer the ravages of these dreadful diseases. The Gift of Music is a wonderful gift to share!