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Successes | Coronary Bypass Treatment Session

Music Therapist Journal

Medical Diagnosis: Coronary bypass
Patient: JJ, female, age 65
Therapy Setting: Medical setting
Intervention Type: Individual
Intervention Method: Meditative music-making, relaxation
Therapeutic Goals: Relaxation, social support

JJ had heard about music therapy and specifically requested a visit before she left the hospital. JJ was sitting up in bed with her large ruby-red heart-shaped pillow by her side. No need to ask about her musical taste. As soon as I had introduced myself, she opened her laptop to show me her love of Native American drums. She had traveled to Australia, led drum-making workshops, spent days in sweat lodges, and walked on fire!

My co-therapist and I brought in a Native American flute, drums, and toning bowl. This would be no ordinary session. After entraining with each other on the drums, JJ opened up about her experience. As she spoke, she started to weep. I suggested that JJ meditate while my co-therapist and I played the rhythm of her new heartbeat over the sound of the toning bowl for the heart chakra—bringing forth the intention of life, health, and energy. JJ was very receptive to this experience, and as her eyes closed, the rhythm began. Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub. The room was alive with a quiet energy . . . the sound of the toning bowl filled our chests as each person matched its pitch, internalizing its vibrations. JJ appeared to be experiencing strong emotions; tears brimmed, and she began to breathe heavily. Gradually she relaxed and allowed the vibrations to wash over her as she hugged her ruby-red pillow.

JJ discussed her memories of her operation—she said she knew she’d be okay because she had felt the presence of a deceased friend with her. This friend was a musician who had played on the movie soundtrack of the Titanic theme song. She told us a story about how she felt him with her during his funeral, showing her that he wanted her to know that his heart would go on. My co-therapist subtly suggested that it could also imply the message that her heart would go on. JJ was astonished by this connection. She thanked us over and over again with gratitude that echoed the rhythm of her heartbeat, thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

Connection: with the concluding song of “My Heart Will Go On,” as a final blessing, I thought to myself, “Mission accomplished.”

Patient Testimony
“I had lost my heartbeat. Do you know how awful it is to have your heart stop for five hours while a machine keeps you alive? During therapy, the drum was my heartbeat. That was amazing! There was no blood flowing in my artery, but while the therapists were playing, I felt the blood suddenly rush through! I feel it even now.”

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