It’s easy for 7-year-old Arlyn Anderson to explain why he likes his music therapy sessions.
“Whenever I’m sad or something, it cheers me up,” Arlyn said.
But to his parents, the effect the therapy sessions on Arlyn has been near-miraculous.
Arlyn, diagnosed with liver failure, received a liver transplant at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in August. Since then, he’s battled infections, cholangitis and a blockage in his hepatic artery—the vessel that supplies blood to the liver.
“He would have an improvement and get better, and then something would happen, and he’d get knocked on his butt again,” mom Erica Anderson said. “It really became hard after a while to find something to keep motivating him and helping him move forward.”
Fortunately, Erica and her husband Neal have Music Therapist Annie Heiderscheit, PhD, on their side.
Once a week, Annie rolls into Arlyn’s hospital room with her music cart in tow. The cart is piled high with a keyboard, melodica, tubano, frame drums, maracas, shakers and all manner of fun and unusual musical instruments. Then, for an hour or more, Annie and Arlyn jam. They experiment with keyboard sounds and pound out rhythms on the drums. They create music that allows Arlyn to express his feelings, manage pain and discomfort, relax and engage in a creative experience. Music therapy has been able to meet so many of Arlyn’s needs throughout his hospitalization.
After Annie’s first session with Arlyn, the difference was apparent.
“He was a whole new kid. It turned his day around. After that, he wanted to go outside, he wanted to play. It was like a switch,” Neal said.
Music therapy is just one integrative therapy offered at Masonic Children’s Hospital. Our Pediatric Integrative Health Program also includes acupuncture, aromatherapy, Reiki and other techniques to help promote natural healing for the body, mind and spirit.
While the idea behind music therapy may seem simple, Annie’s work is anything but. A board-certified music therapist, Annie has 25 years of clinical experience, a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate in music and music therapy. She is also a licensed marriage and family therapist, a faculty member at the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing and the director of the music therapy program at Augsburg College. The program is made possible by generous donors, including the Blythe Brenden-Mann Foundation, the Fairview Foundation Greatest Need Fund, the generous grandmother of a patient and others.
Music therapy is a holistic practice that helps meet the full scope of a patient’s physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual needs, Annie said.
“One of Arlyn’s favorite things about music therapy is that he gets to lead the session: He picks the instrument and tune he wants,” Annie said. “He gets to be in control, which is important because so much else in his life is outside his control. He relishes being in the driver’s seat.”
Since that first meeting with Annie, the Andersons have made music therapy a priority for Arlyn. They began scheduling their time around music therapy sessions—doing everything they could to maximize their time with Annie.“This is what makes it work for him, and it has helped get him through his tough ordeal of being in the hospital,” Neal said.