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Music Matters in Medicine! – soundWELL


Since I began my internship with soundLINCS I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of projects and experience the diverse range of our music delivery and the people that we reach.

Last month I visited Lincoln County Hospital with soundLINCS Music Facilitator Eddy for a soundWELL session, a project providing music activity in Children’s Wards and Clinics within hospitals and accessible for all abilities and ages.

Lincoln County Hospital has the biggest paediatric facility in Lincolnshire, comprising of a day ward and a 24 hour ward alongside associated out-patients clinics. It deals with a variety of patients and the average stay is around 3 days.

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soundWELL is part of our National Foundation for Youth Music’s funded Musical Inclusion Programme, soundINCLUSION, which aims to develop new opportunities for children in challenging circumstances to benefit from participating in high quality music making.  The soundINCLUSION programme has additional funding and support from the Music Education Hubs in Lincolnshire, Leicester/shire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland.

During the session I was really struck by the speed with which patients were engaged, with almost everybody that we worked with having a fantastic story or anecdote to share. These interactions gave a brilliant insight into the impact that the sessions have on a patient and their families and the numerous ways in which they provide relief. The patients and stories below are all completely real, however their names have been changed!

One of these stories came from a 4 year old boy, Jake, in one of the wards. He got really excited the second we entered his room and immediately stopped what he was doing, saying how much he’d been looking forward to it since he heard we were coming. He showed huge enthusiasm for everything that he was shown and spent as he could exploring a wide variety of apps, still pleading for Eddy to show him “just one more” at the end and saying that he had had an “awesome time”.

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At the end of the session his mother told us that Jake had suffered a stroke affecting his right side just 4 weeks before and that she could not believe how comfortably he was using the iPads, operating it solely with his afflicted right hand. He had apparently been struggling with other dexterity activities since the stroke and to see him playing so confidently was a really positive experience for her.

There was also a family of 5 in the ward, including a young patient and her 2 sisters who were all under the age of 10. When Eddy asked if they’d like to get involved, their father seemed initially sceptical about the idea, saying that it wasn’t the kind of thing they generally did but that Eddy could spend a few minutes with the girls to see if they wanted to take part.

Despite these concerns the girls really enjoyed themselves, finding one app in particular (Singing Fingers) great fun as they recorded each other’s voices and remixed them.  Their mum said that it was rare to see them sharing and working together like they were on the app as they could never normally play together without arguing.

When Eddy revisited the family the girls’ father seemed much happier, jokingly asking him not to come to collect the iPad off them till the next day. The parents asked a lot of questions about different types of tablet and the apps they were using, saying that they would definitely consider buying one as a result of the session. The daughter who was staying on the ward said that it had “made me feel a lot happier and less poorly”.

Another patient, Rachael, was still very tired from the anaesthesia when we arrived and her mother suggested that she wouldn’t be able to get involved with the session. Despite this Rachael said that she’d still really like to have a go on the music apps and ended up using the iPad for the full time available, using some fast-paced, challenging apps whilst sat up in her bed, excitedly showing her family what she was doing.

Also on the ward was an 11 year old girl called Becky and her parents, who all had strong musical backgrounds and were excited to take part in the session and discover new apps.

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Whilst she was excited to use the iPad, Becky was anxious as she was about to have a cannula removed fromher hand and was concerned about how much it would hurt. Seeing this, Eddy offered to sit with her during the procedure and show her some apps to distract her from the procedure. Initially the pain from removing the cannula did upset her but she then became increasingly engaged in playing with the app (Bebot) and was surprised when the nurse said that she was finished.

After this Eddy introduced her to another app (Blob Chorus) and left her to play and explore with it. When she was discharged her father told us that Becky had advanced brilliantly on the app and that he was really grateful for the time. He took the names of all the apps they had used and said he would definitely download them as soon as they got home.

For me it was great to have the opportunity to experience the project first-hand and to see the effect that music can have on the young people in the wards. It really gave me a better understanding of the work that we do and how far it reaches.

If you want to read more about soundWELL you can visit the Project page here.

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