When I entered Doris’ room, it was immediately apparent why her Case Manager had called me. A COPD patient, Doris was experiencing significant respiratory distress. Simply put, she was fighting to stay alive with each and every breath!
As family gathered at her bedside, Doris was minimally aware of their presence and could only manage a few words between breaths. Having a conversation was no longer possible. Doris needed all her strength just to breathe.
I introduced myself to the family and briefly explained the reason for my visit. Doris’ son wasn’t sure she would hear the music, as Doris was hard of hearing. But her daughters noted that she was wearing her hearing aids and they wanted to see if I could help comfort their mother.
As I began to play, Doris’ breathing was rapid and irregular. She appeared to be anxious as she continued to struggle for each breath. Ten minutes into the session, Doris was not showing any response to the music.
Then her eyes began to flutter and grow heavy. Only briefly at first, Doris began to relax and close her eyes for a few minutes at a time. Within twenty minutes, Doris was asleep. As she rested, her respirations began to slow as well with deep and steady breaths. At this point, the son asked, “Should her breathing be so slow?” The attending hospice nurse replied that Doris was now relaxed and that her breathing was appropriate for her condition.
In fact, Doris’ respirations had dropped from 50 breaths per minute (prior to my arrival) to 10 breaths per minute after our session. Doris was transitioning with her family at her side. No longer anxious and very much at ease, it would be only a few hours before Doris would escape the chains of her disease and fly away.
Live Therapeutic Music (LTM) is so much more than music. LTM is science, it is spirit. It is intentional, it is improvisation. It is compassion and above all, it is love. All these elements combine to create a beautiful mystery that can calm the soul and soothe the spirit – even in the final moments of our journeys this side of eternity.