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The Power of Music and Conversation: The Critically Ill Patient

Mar 1, 2021 | Music, Wellness

The lifeline:  

A loved one, someone I hold within my heart daily, experienced a time of critical illness.  Mechanical ventilation, vasopressors, antibiotics, etc. assisted her biometrical rhythm to fight for her life for over 3 months.  I lived at the hospital in the visitation area. I made the visitation/waiting area my home and carried out business there.  I needed to be close by. I visited her at every visitation hour, often staying over hours at a time, and in between visitations.  I would talk and sing to her.  And although it was emotionally difficult to talk to her while she was unresponsive, I continued the conversations. 

I read articles and researched her conditions and medical progressions, morbidity, and mortality rate.  I read many guidelines and studies that supported the guidelines to understand the medical decisions, the medications, the biological reactions and the risks associated with survival.  It’s common for those who are critically ill and on life support to develop delirium. And in every moment that I was next to her, I would have full conversations, prayers and sing songs she loved and enjoyed.

Lifeline: Sometimes you just have to speak life over the ones you love. And, sometimes it may just be music in your very own way.

There is power in music, rhythmic conversations and positive energy which are remarkable non-pharmacologic interventions.  A study from Indiana University School of Medicine and Regenstrief Institute reported that music appears to decrease delirium in patients on mechanical ventilators in the intensive care unit (ICU). The study showed that individuals who listened to music (60 – 80 beats per minute) had decreased need for sedatives, fewer days of delirium and were more awake. This warrants an increased chance of survival and recovery.

One day something happened.  She moved her head towards me.  Her movement indicated she was alert and aware of me speaking to her.  Within my calm excitement, I held back tears and asked if she understood what I am speaking and could hear me.  She nodded her head and moved her lips in confirmation with a, “yes”. My heart!  I silently rejoiced while holding back tears!  I needed to keep a level head and take full advantage of that moment.  Now, I was already protective of the energy that surrounded her.  But in that moment of her first response, I was encouraged to continue to be protective of the energy coming into her room, the energy that surrounded her and continued our conversations and our powerful connection.  The laughter, fun, prayers, singing and playing music, telling her about my day, how the family was doing, confirmation that all was okay at home, everything was taking care of, and the explanations of her health conditions and updates. She listened.  Sometimes, she smiled and even cried.   She even tried to speak over the ventilator tube which I encouraged her not to do so in order to minimize the risk of tissue damage. 

There is power in music, rhythmic conversations, positive energy, good vibes, and speaking life into someone you love.  Especially, if that person is critically ill and on life support.

I will always love you, Love.

Your daughter,

Dr. Mary L. Washington

Pharmacist | Voiceover Artist  | Singer

Pharmtainment Productions, LLC

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Dislcaimer:  The contents of this website are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. 

blogs- Mary L. Washington- Voice Artist