A double-lung transplant recipient who turned to the harmonica to strengthen his diaphragm after surgery now shares his passion with others to help them recover as well.
Larry Rawdon first spoke with First Coast News for a different story, where he chronicled how the harmonica helped him rehabilitate his diaphragm after his second lung transplant.
Tuesday, Larry returned to the Mayo Clinic to teach breathing exercises using the harmonica to a room full of heart and lung transplant patients.
“I say the harmonica is the best piece of exercise equipment for the diaphragm that I’ve ever seen,” Rawdon said.
Rawdon has been teaching harmonica classes to transplant patients at the Mayo Clinic since 2013. He also teaches private lessons to those in need.
Dr. Francisco Alvarez with Mayo Clinic’s lung transplant program called the diaphragm the most important muscle for breathing.
“If your diaphragm couldn’t move you literally couldn’t breathe,” Dr. Alvarez said. “And that’s why it’s so important for the purpose of aspiration.”
Alvarez said the harmonica, in combination with regular breathing exercises, can improve outcomes for transplant recipients.
“You can see that the pulmonary function gets better, their breathing gets better and overall they feel much better as a result,” he said.
One of the recipients in the group Tuesday was Wendy Corley. She received a lung transplant at Mayo in August.
“After not being able to breathe for the better part of three years, you come out of surgery and even though you’ve been breathing for 60-some years, you don’t know how to breathe anymore,” Corley said.
Rawdon said the classes are about more than exercise; they’re a distraction when some people need it most.
“It’s something that’s doing you some good and yet your mind isn’t on all the other things that are on our minds,” he said.
And in a way, Corley added, to make the most of the gift from her donor.
“I owe a lot of people for this lung,” she said. “And I will take very good care of it.”