I met Connie’s nurse in the ICU and sensed that her patient was giving her just about all she could handle. “I have a patient who is a hot mess right now,” Lynn explained, “Would you have time to see if your music might help calm her down?”
Walking into Connie’s room, I remembered playing for her last month. After a lengthy hospitalization to control her diabetes, Connie had been released to go home. However, after only a few weeks, she had been rushed back to the ER.
In the ICU, Connie was having a rough day. Moaning and crying out incoherently every 30 seconds, Connie was in near constant motion with her twisting and turning in bed. Pillows had been packed along both bed rails to protect her as she thrashed about. Every few minutes, her legs would begin shaking, then the tremors would move up into her torso and eventually, her arms and hands. At the climax of these convulsions, Connie would wail before collapsing into sobs. Connie had been suffering opiate withdrawal since arriving earlier this morning. Witnessing this insufferable torment is nearly as painful for the observer as it is for the patient.
I sat in a chair next to Connie’s bed, whispered a prayer for healing and began to play. The effect of the musical intervention was immediate, as the music seemed to distract her. For the next three minutes, Connie barely moved a muscle and was nearly silent. Then the leg tremor began and culminated in her crying out and thrashing back and forth for several seconds. Then… silence.
For the next 40 minutes, Connie and I repeated this process until finally, she fell silent and exhausted. Connie had fallen asleep. Her respiration rate slowed as I heard her taking deep, long breaths. After 3 minutes, her monitor showed her O2 saturation had improved from 89 to 92 and her heart rate dropped from 142 to 120. Even more amazing, Connie was completely still and at rest.
After doing this work for the past 8 years, I still find myself being surprised at the power of Live Therapeutic Music. And I remember my friend Emily telling me how music is able to touch us in places where medicine can’t always reach.
As I write this, Connie’s withdrawal symptoms have likely run their course. So I pray for her healing and hope that she finds peace in a world marred by illness and disease. And if even only for a moment, I am grateful that Connie was able to experience a small measure of comfort and healing through my music.