By Anne Arntson
After four months at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Ireland Larson’s hospital room has become her own. It’s filled with stuffed animals, board games, handwritten notes, drawings of her favorite Disney princess, Ariel, family photographs and a heart-shaped electric guitar.
“I really like electric guitar because it sounds loud, and I like being loud,” Ireland, 7, said about her instrument.
With her family by her side, Ireland waits for a heart transplant. A new heart could come any day, her family said.
Music therapist Elizabeth Klinger visits patients like Ireland and her family to help spark creativity.
“Through music therapy we can use music techniques and skills to build up the confidence and the skill set of the patient and the family members so that they’re building themselves an identity as a musician,” Klinger said. “You know, I’m not a child that’s been in the hospital for four months, I am a musician because I wrote this song or because I learned this instrument,” she added.
Music may also act as medication. A study published in UK medical journal The Lancet last month says that music can improve a patient’s recovery after surgery.
The sound of music also provides much-needed relaxation and a distraction from long days in the hospital.
“I can’t say enough about music therapy. It is a way for Ireland and the girls and the kids to express their feelings, to express their emotions, to let out some energy. It’s engaging. It is a whole different reprise from what their daily life is here,” Kathleen Larson, Ireland’s mother, said.