BC Children’s Hospital serves newborn babies to teenagers across BC and the Yukon. The music therapy program is a crucially important component of the Child & Youth Therapeutic Services Department and is highly utilized and valued by patients and families at BC Children’s. Music Therapy is offered in the following areas of BC Children’s Hospital:
6th / 7th floor- Medical / Surgical Unit
8th floor- Oncology/Hematology/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit
On the sixth floor of the Teck Acute Care Centre there is a dedicated music therapy studio in the Medical/Surgical inpatient unit. Patients and families are instantly drawn to the sights and sounds of the piano, the electronic drum kit and a variety of instruments and recording equipment in this purpose built space. This comfortable and healing environment provides a welcome reprieve from the worry and stress that often accompany hospitalization. The music therapy studio is used for therapeutic group sessions and for individualized patient visits, offering children a private space to express their thoughts and feelings through music.
Children and youth undergoing treatment for burns, cancer and blood disorders experience pain, nausea, fatigue and isolation.
How does Music Therapy uniquely address the needs of clients at BCCHF?
Music and relaxation techniques administered by a music therapist are an effective means to provide comfort, relaxation and distraction during painful procedures or to help manage the side effects of treatment. Playing, exploring or learning a musical instrument and singing songs can alleviate tension, provide meaningful interactions for families, and a much needed physical and emotional outlet.
More than just the 1:1 music therapy sessions provided to patients, music therapists are an important part of the multidisciplinary care teams treating each child. Music therapists assess each patient and consult with the rest of the care team, and check in often with patients, bring music supplies to the bedside, provide resources, and more.
How has COVID-19 impacted the program?
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, group sessions have been paused, greatly reducing the number of patients music therapists are able to connect with. Instead, the team has focused on individual sessions with patients at their bedsides, where they are needed most.
Adopting this program would allow BC Children’s to keep one full day of music therapy service (7.5 hours per week) on the units they are currently covering, this includes Sunny Hill. An average of 4-6 patients per week would be seen with this funding. Because group programming is suspended at this time due to COVID-19, patients are being seen solely on a one-to-one basis. This funding will guarantee that more patients who are experiencing extended hospital stays, invasive medical procedures and complicated psychosocial issues have access to music therapy services.
When April was four months pregnant, she learned that her baby would be born with multiple holes in her heart. She braced herself for the possibility that Coralie would require surgery to treat the condition known as ventricular septal defect (VSD). But April wasn’t at all prepared for how things unfolded in the first few months following her daughter’s birth. The holes in Coralie’s heart were large and did not seal naturally on their own. Cardiologists at BC Children’s Hospital scheduled the operation to close the openings for when she turned six months of age. While waiting for that daunting procedure, however, Coralie contracted a virus that led to near total heart failure. She was four months old.
Coralie was hospitalized for what turned out to be a three-month stay. She had very little muscle movement in her left ventricle, making it extremely difficult for her body to pump blood. Although there was a slim chance that her heart would begin functioning normally again on its own, Coralie’s circumstances were so dire that she was immediately put on the waitlist for a heart transplant. It was a period of immense worry for the whole family. However, April fondly describes the many different forms of care that Coralie and the whole family received at BC Children’s.
“Everyone was so great with Coralie, and gave her every opportunity to just be a kid,” recalls April. In particular, the music therapy program was a daily highlight of Coralie’s hospital stay. “Being only six months old, she would try to sing and coo to the music, with a few giggles in between. Coralie still lights up when she hears Baby Beluga. We know that she was happy and enjoyed herself, even hours after the music session. A happy baby puts less strain on the heart and allows it to recover faster.” April says.
After two and a half months, Coralie’s heart muscle started moving. Rather than having a heart transplant, the surgeon was able to complete the VSD hole-closure surgery for her. No one knows why her heart started moving again,”says April. “It was a miracle.”
Now entering her toddler years, Coralie is a happy girl who loves babbling with her mom and dad. Coralie remains under the careful and ongoing monitoring of the hospital’s cardiology team and for the time being must take medication.
“Every time I see Coralie’s scar, it reminds me of the good hearts of people.” April says. “Every person we met at the hospital just wanted her to heal, and we received very good care from everyone. I believe it made all the difference for Coralie. I could have lost her at four months, and she’s still with us.”