Friday, January 22, 2010

Caregiver Tip #8: Listen to the Music

Music is a very personal thing. It can calm our soul; it can jangle our nerves. Music brings us back to a different time or place; it makes us feel younger...again. It makes us want to dance. A specific song or CD becomes our personal soundtrack for a challenging time. Music can bring messagaes of encouragement and support.

Steve and I were given a wonderful gift last year when a friend of ours "gave" Steve a song. Bob Bost, a Seattle graphics designer and prolific songwriter, had written a song he thought might be appreciated by cancer patients. Then, after talking with us about the preparations we were making for Steve's kidney transplant, Bob realized that the song was really "intended" for Steve.

Bob's song, professionally recorded by vocalist Larry Murante with his voice reminiscent of Gordon Lightfoot, and hauntingly beautiful violin and guitar backup, was entitled "Fight the Good Fight."

The lyrics spoke of a man struggling with an illness, fighting to get out of the hospital bed and back onto his own path. The chorus:

        "I'll fight the good fight everyday,
       I'll win this battle; I'll find a way.
       And I believe, when tomorrow comes
       I'll hear my heart beating like a drum."

How do you verbally describe a song that made many of Steve's adult male friends break down in tears?

Bob's song had that quality, musically breaking through the barriers that keep us formal, that allow us to maintain "our distance.".

Bob's lyrics were more apropo than we'd dreamed; during and after his transplant, Steve had three heart attacks. So, awakening and hearing his heart "beating like a drum" was a critical theme.

During this time, I also received a CD with Cindi Lauper's beautiful work, "Time After Time." You know the lyrics:

      "If you fall, I will catch you.
        I will be waiting...
       Time after time."

While caring so acutely for Steve after his transplant, I thought I was the one doing the "catching." Now, I generalize the meaning to the universal back-up we all have...if only we recognize it.

I remember the soothing quality of music when my father was in the hospital many years ago -- on a ventilator for three months with an acute gallstone-related pancreatitis. My sister and I brought musical tapes to play in his ICU room: calming Windham Hill selections. Many of the nurses and respiratory therapists lingered in my dad's room because of the music; it set a tone of comfort -- but also a tone of respect for this man dearly loved by a family and unable to speak for himself at the time.

We must seek out music that resonates with our minds and hearts -- whether it's rock, heavy metal, folk, the blues, R &;B, gospel, rap, or country western..

As caregivers, we need all the help we can get. Surround yourself with music that resonates with your heart. Consciously find lyrics that become the mantra for your challenge.

Take care. Linda Gromko, MD

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