JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Going to the hospital is scary for many people, but especially for children.
To alleviate some of that fear and pain, Wolfson Children’s Hospital created a music therapy program. And just recently, the hospital added a new and improved recording studio for patients.
Music is a way for children to express themselves when words are not enough, especially when they are being treated in hospital.
“For me, it was an expression of what I wanted to feel, as opposed to, I guess, what I felt,” said former cancer patient Isabelle Scott.
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A former patient, Isabelle Scott was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in 2018. At the time, she was a senior in high school, preparing for college auditions and playing the harp.
“So, it was really kind of overwhelming to suddenly have to give it all up and it was painful and scary and it just wasn’t the right time,” Scott said.
Fortunately, she was able to complete her chemotherapy and go into remission within five months at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Scott has had a music therapist and she says music has helped her stay positive during her difficult journey with cancer.
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“And it was just healing for me because the harp was such a big part of my life that having those notes under my fingers helped me stay connected to the outside world,” Scott said.
“It’s hard to be here,” said Morgan Maxwell, a certified music therapist. “It’s not where people want to be. You’re here on vacation, you’re sick, and you just don’t feel well.”
Maxwell is a certified music therapist and works with children in the intensive care unit at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. She says music can lift a patient’s mood and offer an outlet for families.
“It’s tough and kids are resilient, but sometimes they need a piece to hold on to and help them stay resilient,” Maxwell said. “And so the music we create encourages and inspires them.”
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Christ’s Starfish Foundation contributed to the creation of a recording studio in the hospital.
“So when we bring them here, we often see that motivation and mood improve, just because they get this unique experience and get an opportunity to express themselves in a way that maybe they wouldn’t have if they weren’t in music therapy,” Maxwell said.
It’s even on wheels for kids who are too sick to get out of bed.
From guitars and drums to pianos and microphones, kids now have the space to express themselves and take their talents to the next level. They can record vocals and experiment with instruments.
Action News Jax Annette Gutierrez decided to give it a shot. Maxwell began the session by coming up with a few words of affirmation; “You are brave, you are brave, you are beautiful and you are strong.”
She then came up with a guitar melody and recorded a song.
Because each patient has a unique diagnosis, some patients cannot record music. And unfortunately, some families have to say goodbye to their loved ones sooner than they would like. But the program offers them something to hold on to for the rest of their lives – their child’s heartbeat.
“We have a stethoscope that has a microphone inside,” Maxwell said. “And depending on the patient’s prognosis, how the family is doing, how the sibling is doing, we’ll go to the bedside and get a heart rate recording.”
And then it goes into this hearty bear.
Everyone’s musical journey through treatment is different. Scott beat cancer. Now she’s in college and thriving—living her dream as a musician.
“I wouldn’t let that hold me back,” Scott said. “And I was determined to keep going, even if I was afraid something would pop up and stop me in my tracks.”
Families who use the music therapy program do not have to worry about giving a dime because it is fully covered by philanthropic locations.
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