Music therapist brings life to music

The music of the heart: Music therapy

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Every song tells a story but some stories have a little more heart .  A local music therapist is trying to make the hospital a little less scary for kids who are dealing with a serious illness, by giving them a way to express themselves through the power of music. 
 
"When you have a chronic illness it's great to have some medium to express how you're feeling, to encourage, to motivate, and also a good outlet," said Board Certified Music Therapist Julie Avirett.
 
She works at Wolfson Children's Hospital. One of her patients, 9-month-old Paisley Speas, came to Wolfson with a distended belly when she was 2-months-old. She spent some time at a hospital in Boston but her treatment brought her back to Jacksonville. 
 
Her mom, Alison, says music therapy has been wonderful even at such a young age. 
 
"She just smiles and she has her little shakers. She goes to town. It definitely brightens her day," said Speas. 
 
It's also increasing her fine motor skills. With a recent grant, Avirett was able to purchase this digital stethoscope. It records the patient's heart beat. She puts it as the background of a song, bringing life to music
 
"We have a 3-year-old son. We sing it with him and we actually had him singing it to her. So, it's kind of a special song for them and they kind of connect with that song," said Speas.
 
Sixteen-year-old Courtney Starr is also at Wolfson. She has cystic fibrosis. She comes about twice a year -- for a tune up she calls it. Every day she has to do breathing treatments, which is very rhythmic.
 
"For the respiratory, you can do the same beat, with the drum, and that helps them to be active with their care," said Avirett. 
 
Courtney chose to put her heartbeat under a song by her favorite artist, Sabrina Carpenter.
 
"For what we were doing, it had a good beat to it. So I thought using the heartbeat with it would sound good. Since it has a good beat," said Starr. 
 
Her hospital room is decorated as any teens' room would be with posters and notes from her friends. The music helps to bring some normalcy to her life for the next two weeks.  
 
"It's helped me enjoy my stay. It's helped me relax and try new things with music. And, have something to do when you're here," said Starr.
 
Helping her, and other referred patients' find the music of their own heart.
 
Avirett only sees patients at Wolfson and on a referral from their doctor. If you think your child could benefit from this, talk to his or her physician. 
 

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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