This post chronicles one of the most significant clinical responses to live therapeutic music I have yet to experience as a Certified Music Practitioner.
I was recently in a local ICU where a nurse asked, “I have a trauma patient whose systolic blood pressure is dangerously high. I can’t give him any more medication and we can’t seem to get him stabilized. Do you think you can help?” For a moment, I froze as I contemplated her request. I’ve seen therapeutic music stabilize dozens of patients, but never had a nurse ask me to apply therapeutic music to literally help save someone’s life. I didn’t want to say “No”, but was terrified to say, “Yes.”
Before I knew it, I was standing at the patient’s bedside assessing his condition. Recovering from two surgeries in as many days, he was intubated and minimally responsive. His eyes were open, but were unable to focus and his blood pressure was dangerously high at 216/92. Even though he couldn’t communicate, he was clearly in pain and agitated.
As I began playing, the patient was reclining at 45-degrees. His eyes were fixed on the bright fluorescent lights overhead. After a few minutes, the music was having no visible affect as I searched for musical variables that might provide relief. The nurse suggested that we lower the patient’s head and dim the lights. I concurred and as she lowered the bed, the patient closed his eyes. As I reinitiated the entrainment process, his monitor displayed a BP of 204/90. I continued playing loosely metered, arrhythmic music and watched the numbers continue to fall: 195, 180, 168, 150, 135 and finally, 124. All this occurred within 15 – 18 minutes. The ICU manager, who was monitoring the patient from the nurse’s station, came in with a concern that he might be bleeding internally. Both nurses checked the patient and agreed that there were no signs of bleeding. During the session, the patient’s heart rate also fell from 112 to 90. I continued playing for another 30 minutes and was amazed to see the patient stabilize with a BP of 124/84. When I finished and walked out to the nurse’s station, a few staff members had gathered. The patient’s nurse said, “I’m not sure what else we could have done had you not been here this morning. Thank you for being here!”
I can’t claim that therapeutic music alone made the patient’s BP drop so quickly. Clearly, live therapeutic music cannot replace medicine. But as an alternative complimentary intervention, live therapeutic music contributed to the patient’s healing. The medicine, the repositioning of the patient in his bed, the lowering of the lights and the “prescriptive music” all worked together to lower his blood pressure and I was blessed to be part of his healing.
It is so gratifying to work with healthcare professionals who recognize the value & benefits of Live Therapeutic Music and I am grateful for the opportunity to share the gift of music, which can heal places inside, where medicine can’t always reach.