Music as Medicine

As I neared a nursing station at the corner, an older man was speaking to two nurses. He was trying to be polite, but it was evident that he was advocating for his wife, and was trying to get to the bottom of a situation. They spoke a bit more and they seemed to give an answer that would suffice for the time; the man returned to the patient’s room around the corner. It turned out that his wife was very anxious and requesting additional pain medicine before they were able to give it, and was threatening to have a panic attack. The nurse was doing her best not to become flustered. She looked at me and said, “You know, you would be perfect for this room here,” and directed me into the patient’s room. Both the husband and the nurse were attempting to reassure the patient to trust that the medicine would do its work and to try to relax so she could sleep. The husband told his wife that he would step out for about half an hour to go take a break at the cafeteria, and the nurse encouraged her to relax into the music before stepping out. I stayed near the foot of the woman’s bed while she closed her eyes; she did not look at the harp but shifted her head position a few times before settling into a deeper breathing pattern.  The nurse passed by the door, whispering to ask if it was working.  When she looked in, the patient said, “Yes, it’s working!”  The patient continued to breathe deeply, eventually falling asleep.

I gradually began to play softer and slower, repeating the same few tunes in reverse order from the beginning of the visit. As I left the patients room, the patient continued to stay asleep and her breathing remained steady and slow.

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