If music really helps heal, then a lot of people at CHI Mercy Medical Center are going to heal a lot faster.
The Music for Healing program was instituted in Mercy about five years ago with volunteers from the community coming into the hospital periodically to play music for the patients, family members, employees, or whomever may be in the hospital.
The volunteer musicians are asked to give two hours of time in three different locations in the hospital when they are able to play.
Tim Juett is a retired physical therapist who plays his accordion at the hospital once a month. He started learning to play when he was 8 years old because his parents were friends with an accordion teacher. But he hadn’t played the accordion since he was 16, when he started playing guitar in a rock ’n’ roll group. When he retired, he picked up the accordion again and decided to volunteer at Mercy.
“It’s just soft music and it’s all old music, from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s,” Juett said.
Feryl Laney happened to be walking by when Juett began playing recently, and stopped to tell him how much she appreciated his performance.
“It makes such an encouragement to people in the hospital,” Laney said. “It’s wonderful therapy.”
Juett said he occasionally plays a song called “Daddy’s Little Girl” and it particularly hit home with one woman.
“She was in disbelief that I was playing that song at that time, when she was walking by to visit her mother in the ICU,” Juett said.
The woman was from out of state and said her father played that song to her on the accordion many times and she asked if she could record it to share it with her mother and all of her siblings in other states
“Text messages started coming in from the siblings who were overwhelmed with emotion and disbelief that I had played the song that brought back so many memories,” Juett said.
His first day on the job was two days after the shootings at Umpqua Community College. He was playing near the rooms of some of the injured students, when a Red Cross volunteer stopped to talk.
“She came by with tears in her eyes and she said the music has really been uplifting and special for everybody here,” Juett said. “And it was really touching for me.”
Cassandra Harter of Roseburg plays the guitar and brings a couple of fiddle players, Colleen Hanks and Kelly Wadsworth who are members of the Old Time Fiddlers Association. They were looking for a place to play, so they went to the hospital and signed up for Music for Healing.
“We were just looking for someplace dry to go and play,” Harter said.
They started playing once or twice a week, and then invited Wadsworth to come with them.
“If the patients are going to make the effort to come out of their room, we know they’re enjoying it and tappin’ their foot and I think it might brighten their day a little bit,” Wadsworth said.
“One of my favorites was this little old lady that we saw coming down the hall, and could hardly put one foot in front of the other,” Harter said. “But when she got there, she started dancing on her walker and the nurse started dancing with her, that was fun.”
Hanks said it’s a joy to play where people appreciate what they’re doing.
“We’re just having fun playing music together,” Hanks said. “All the nurses and the patients, everybody loves to listen to the music in the hallway.”
Carl Kerkman regularly brings his guitar to the hospital to play. He likes to play a wide range of songs from country to pop to old jazz standards. He’s also happy to do requests.
“I just recently got back into playing and I thought rather than just sitting at home and amusing myself and running through the songs I’ve know forever, I could go into the hospital and maybe make a difference in people’s time in the hospital,” Kerkman said.
Other volunteers include Ben Chase, guitar; Tony Peter, guitar; and Catherine Kerns and Elizabeth Broeker who both play the Chinese zither.
Michelle Kronner, the director of volunteer services at the hospital said it’s overwhelming to see the effects of music and how it can soothe the soul.
“It can really cause a decrease in pain levels and anxiety,” Kronner said.
Kronner said the hospital is always looking for more volunteers to participate in the program.
“We always have room, we cannot have too much “Music for Healing” going on in our hallways,” Kronner said.