One of the patients at Day Services was a young man who had been in an automobile accident and had a severe closed-head injury. He had been in a coma for weeks, followed by weeks of inpatient rehab. Since I can’t use his real name, I’ll call him Dave.
Prior to his accident, Dave had been in a band with some other high school buddies, and he wrote much of the music. According to friends, the band was quite good and had actually played a few gigs, with hopes of more to come. Unfortunately, the accident had dashed those hopes, but Dave still liked to sing and would occasionally attempt to play my guitar.
One day while I was playing the usual warm-up exercise I do right after I tune my guitar, Dave focused on the music. When I stopped, he asked me to keep playing the song. “It’s not a song,” I told him. “It’s just a little riff I do.”
“But it’s a song,” he said.
“Okay, sing it.”
He did, filling in with a melody and lyrics as if he was reading them off a piece of sheet music.
He sang that song every day for a week, with only slight variations in the music, but wide disparity in the words due to his short-term memory difficulties. So I got the idea to tape him singing and send the tape to my son who writes music. I asked my son if he could write out the music for Dave, smoothing the rough edges of the melody and filling in missing lyrics.
A few weeks later I was able to gift Dave with a tape of his song, as well as sheet music. He was thrilled. He still couldn't remember the song from day to day, but his father told me Dave listened to the tape every day on the way home from the hospital.
Others in Day Services had certain songs they wanted me to play week after week, and I thought that all I was doing was making them happy for a little while. I had no idea that the music was actually helping them physically.
I knew of music therapy programs in healing, but had always thought of them as good for the soul, more than the body. But the director of the Day Services said that the music was helping, especially in Dave’s case, the patients’ brains to make new synaptic connections to compensate for those broken in the accidents that caused their brain injuries.
Even today, over ten years later, it still thrills me to know that this meager musical talent was able to have such a positive impact.
The Little Cop Who Couldn’t
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