Letter: The Healing Power of Music

I read with great interest “Communication Disorders,” the article on aphasia in the July/August issue. I was surprised, however, that it didn’t mention the power of music and song in recovery. In my personal journey with my husband, I found it invaluable.

We were at our cabin in a remote area when he simply fell and couldn’t get up or even respond to me. During the wait for help to arrive (1 to 1½ hours), the only comforts I could give him were to hold him and sing to him. At the hospital the next day, the prognosis was grim. Tests showed that he had suffered a massive stroke. He couldn’t walk, talk, swallow, read, or even understand what was being said to him. Yet one nurse in the ICU said to me, “Your husband was trying to sing last night.” That sparked a bit of hope. I felt that something had got through to his brain during that long, lonely wait for help.

Again I started to sing to him—old familiar songs: “You Are My Sunshine,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”...just the choruses, not the verses; it was rote learning in its simplest form. Gradually he began to respond. I knew I was on to something good when I tried “Achy Breaky Heart” and he said, “No!” He’d always hated that song. It was an aha! moment for sure. I worked hard, but he worked harder when he got the idea. He came home after five months of intensive physical and speech therapies.

He can now walk and talk—not fluently, but quite well considering the extent of his injury. He is again enjoying one of his favourite pastimes, reading from “that newfangled e-reader” (his words, not mine). Never underestimate the power of music and song as part of the healing process.

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