Hospitals use all sorts of tools and materials to treat injured patients. Yet sometimes the most effective tools for healing aren’t the ones you apply directly to the wounds.
Mental health can be just as important to the healing process as physical, and there are many tools to assist with that as well. Though, perhaps, music is the most powerful tool of all.
After her hair caught fire, Markeyla Williams was admitted to a hospital.
On May 20, 22-year-old Markeyla Williams was hanging out around the home in Auburn, Alabama, when the accident occurred.
“I ran out to my car to grab a brush after my mom had put oil in my hair and was talking with my cousin outside of my home when I flipped a lighter and caught my hair on fire,” Williams told UAB News.
She tried to put the fire out by rolling around on the ground. Meanwhile her cousin tried extinguishing it with her bare hands. Nothing seemed to be working.
“I didn’t think I was going to live,” she said.
Fortunately, a neighbor heard her cries and ran over to help. They smothered the fire spreading across her body with a blanket.
Soon the local fire department came to have Williams airlifted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Hospital where she would be treated for third-degree burns on her head, arms, and shoulders.
“I had never flown before and was so scared,” Williams said. “But, I knew it was the only way I was going to live.”
The staff used the power of music to help her recovery.
Williams was treated for her burns but the recovery process is long and painful.
One day as Williams was doing some occupational therapy with student Chad Tidwell, Musical Therapist Nicole Camp stopped by her room for co-treatment.
Camp asked Williams what kind of music she liked, and she quickly responded saying “R&B.” So Camp started playing “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé on her guitar. Williams couldn’t help but sing along.
“All of a sudden, the pain started to go away,” Williams said. “Chad was able to better help me work on movement in my fingers, while I was taken away by the music.”
When that song ended, it was time for the next hit. Camp played Alicia Keys’s “No One,” which touched everyone in the room, including Williams’s family.
“The song’s lyrics brought out so many emotions as it related to what the Williams family was going through,” Camp told UAB News. “These times may be tough, but this family will stick together to get Markeyla through her remarkable recovery and on to her next journey.”
This was far from the first time Camp had used live music to help treat a patient. It’s an extremely effective method because the energy from the patient can be influenced by the the music being played.
“It’s all a matter of being alert to and responding to the patient’s physiological and emotional responses,” Camp said. “An emotional connection to a certain song, and the response to a memory associated with it, are elements we have to be sensitive to.”
With pre-recorded music, there’s no way to adjust lyrics and tempo to meet a patient’s needs. However, with live music, songs can be altered on the fly, providing the perfect song to rock your blues away.
Hearing about all of this is music to my ears!