Huntington’s Disease is a dreadful hereditary genetic disorder causing muscles of those afflicted to seize and contract involuntarily, often violently. One patient I served in a local ICU suffers from this disease. She described her 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. When I met Jerri, she had just completed a respiratory therapy. Thirty 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, “My tremors have stopped!” I marveled at the healing properties of the music. She then lowered her arm and asked, “Could you play Amazing Grace?” I nodded and began a medley of several traditional hymns. As I monitored her monitor, 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 normal and my tremors have stopped!” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she closed her eyes and quietly sang with the hymns I was playing.
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!”
I can’t claim that the music alone provided Jerri’s relief. But I do know that the music complimented her medications and provided comfort for a brief period of time. How I long for the day when the entire health care community recognizes the benefits and value of utilizing live therapeutic music with conventional medical practices.