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Music Can Re-Wire the Brain and Facilitate Healing (part 2) (by Guest Blogger Carol Shively Mizes)

In my earlier post for CPAC's Creative Minds in Medicine guest blog series, I share Jory Aebly's story, who was a victim of violent crime, and a patient at MetroHealth.  

My next example is yet another accomplished musician who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm while performing a concert. His name is Greg Markell, Director of Community & Public Affairs for the Lake County ADAMHS Board. 

He was well over an hour away from MetroHealth and Life Flight could not fly him to the hospital because the storms that day were too horrific. He needed to be driven by an ambulance. Every second of bleeding in the brain can be detrimental. His wife truly believed he would not make it. 

One day, while he was in the ICU at MetroHealth, one of his band mates from his acoustic trio, came to visit him and started to sing. While he was yet unresponsive, midway through the song, he began singing with her in full harmony, the song “Desperado”. The nurses could not believe it and came running into his room. He and I believed it was the music that flipped on a switch in the part of his brain that knows and loves music. After that, things began to change for the better. 

After being transferred to the Rehabilitation Department, Greg was referred to music therapy. He was challenged to play and sing as he used to. It was evident that he was a guitar player but he needed to re-learn good technique, work on memory skills as well as improving his attention skills. Every day I would hand him the guitar, purposely out of tune, to make sure he could tune his instrument. Greg was easily distracted but while he was playing his music, Greg was very focused. Music immediately organized his brain and stimulates those neurons to fire in synchrony once again. After his family brought his sheet music in to therapy, Greg was ready to Rock and Roll again. I would challenge him by playing Djembe (African drum) alongside of him and sometimes sang harmony to see if he could remain focused, on his part, which he did. 

In Physical Therapy, at one point, Greg was working on standing and balancing again. He could only stand up and balance for 13 seconds. Prior to his injury Greg was used to standing during his entire performance. I suggested to the Physical Therapist to put a guitar in his hands and have him sing while working on standing and balancing. As soon as we did this, Greg could stand and balance for 15 minutes the very next day! Everyone in the physical therapy gym enjoyed listening to him sing and play. 

Two weeks after he was discharged from the hospital, Greg and his Trio, sang for our Annual Volunteer Luncheon as the entertainers and performed remarkably well while standing. Some of the news cameras were there to tell his story. We all loved it!

Greg went back to work full time, several months later and started to perform again with his trio shortly after that. 

Greg would tell people that having music in the hospital and having the promise that he would be able to play again someday, was the motivation for him to keep going.

For more about intersections in the arts and health fields, read Creative Minds in Medicine and attend the conference on October 29-30.

This blog is used under license and was submitted by volunteer contributor Carol Shively Mizes, Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow and Activity Therapy Coordinator, MetroHealth Medical Center. Learn more about MetroHealth at their website, http://www.metrohealth.org/. The opinions represented here are the authors' own and do not necessarily reflect the views of CPAC. CPAC does not endorse the purchase of products or services by its guest bloggers. We thank all writers for volunteering their expertise with us in order to continue to strengthen, unify and connect greater Cleveland’s arts and culture community.

Categories: arts, artsandhealth, health, Music, Physicians

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