“This music is pure gold. Not the kind that you can get in the jewelry store. This gold is heaven sent.” Quote from a patient who Carol Joy had been working with once a month for almost a year. Patient gave this quote to Korva Coleman of NPR radio one week before the patient passed.

“Until this last chapter of my life, never have I ever experienced anything like this beautiful music. If this is how it is to be, then I accept it and I’m grateful that you are here now. You have added a new dimension to my life. In my journeys wherever I may go now, I’ll look down on you and say, Carol Joy, sing that one again for me.” From a patient who had been sent home from the hospital and was told that he had one week left to live. This quote was given one month later.

Nursing home patient repeating over and over, “I’m scared, I’m lost.” I came to her side and did some therapeutic touch while singing an improvisational song with the words, “You are safe, all is well.” She settled down and looked at me in wonder and said very quietly, “Who sent you to me?”

Nursing home patient waiting to be taken for physical therapy. She said, “Keep playing, don’t stop. Play another and another. Keep playing until they come to get me for therapy.”

Patient with dementia who hardly spoke all year started talking non-stop with the live music for 40 minutes. Some of what he said made sense, including “I want to thank my family for everything they have done for me to make me comfortable.” After 40 minutes of continuous talking patient fell asleep with the music.

Patient with a bad case of cellulitis to both legs was in pain all morning. No medicine that the staff gave her was able to touch the pain. After 10 minutes of playing she said to me, “You know, I’ve been in pain all morning and nothing has helped. Now, I finally think I am feeling better. I think it’s the harp and that “pipe” (Native American flute) that you play.”

Carol Joy played the harp and sang for a half hour for a patient who was dying of cancer. Then the patient said, “I have a request. I am going to stay in this hospital until I die. Will you play and sing that song at my memorial service?” The patient told her mother later in the day that “an angel was sent to her from God to play the harp and sing.” This patient then said that she had a turning point with the music and was able to accept her fate peacefully for the first time. Her mother told Carol Joy later that she could see this peace on her daughter’s face for the first time and was very grateful.

Non compliant hospice patient who screamed at all the staff members and told them to “get out.” She settled immediately with the harp at her side. During a well known hymn she told her family that she wanted the harp and this singer at her funeral singing that hymn more than anything. She remained calm and peaceful with this music and was very appreciative for the visit.

A patient with lung cancer that was metastasized to the brain with a seizure disorder and was bipolar, was constantly shaking and moving all over the bed in the nursing home. She fell out of bed several times and the physicians had tried many different pharmaceuticals, including a psychiatric consult. Reiki therapy had been tried also. Nothing was working. When Carol Joy came to her side she noticed that there was no rhythm to the patient’s constant jerking movements, so Carol Joy began to play music without a rhythm. Within minutes the patient began to calm down enough that Carol Joy could bring a rhythm into the music. After this therapeutic music session the patient was completely calm and told Carol Joy, “You are alright.” The patient remained calm for the next 2 months before she passed.

Heavy set man with a head injury in the Critical Care Unit who was semi-comatose, restrained to the bed, very restless and agitated with a blood pressure of 164/92, pulse 100 and respirations were 20. The nurse had been trying all morning to bring the patient’s blood pressure down without success. Carol Joy tried the guitar, voice, native American flute to no avail. However, when she began playing a small lap harp the patient responded and opened his eyes within about 5 minutes. He looked at Carol Joy and said, “What time is it?” Soon she noticed on the cardiac monitor that his blood pressure had come down to 152/84, pulse was 88 and his respirations were 12. When she left him the nurses were able to leave him unrestrained and he was sleeping very peacefully.

Congestive Heart Failure hospice patient who was actively dying in acute respiratory distress with respirations of 60 and pulse rate of 180. Patient was given morphine an hour before I arrived and became even more distressed. She was given one more dose of morphine the second I sat down to play the harp. As soon as I began to play the harp and sing she turned toward the harp, reached her hand out to the harp and began to settle down. I held her hand with my left hand and played the harp with my right hand. Within a 10 minute period her breathing slowed down peacefully and with her daughter at her side she died very peacefully.

Patient in a nursing home with a very difficult dressing change was screaming during the change. Her pulse was 120. I sat by her side and played the guitar and native American flute. Her pulse came down very quickly to 76 and respirations were 16.

Patient in the nursing home who had not slept in days due to anxiety and pain. With guitar and singing chants at her side she fell asleep instantly in her chair and stayed asleep during the entire music session.

CVA patient in pain. She was holding her head and moaning when I came in. As soon as I started playing the harp and singing she let go of her head and said, “Oh, that is beautiful.” She soon fell asleep peacefully.

Playing in an assisted living for a patient who was pacing the hallway. She finally sat down and relaxed. There were about 5 other patients in the hall. One was reading the newspaper. All 5 patients fell asleep in their chairs. The person reading the newspaper fell asleep and dropped the newspaper. When I stopped playing this person woke up, bent down, picked up the paper and started reading again.

Family unable to accept their mother’s death and did not want to be present while the ventilator was finally turned off. Family was open to coming in before the ventilator was turned off with me playing music at their mother’s side. Family ended up staying the entire time while the ventilator was turned off and through the next few hours until their mother passed. Family was peaceful and calm during this time.

These are only a very small sampling of the quotes and experiences Carol Joy has had at the bedside of critically ill and dying patients over the past few years. Carol Joy has worked with many hundreds of patients with live therapeutic music and finds it the most gratifying work she has ever done in her nursing career.

* Names are not included to protect the identity of patients and to comply with HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rules and regulations.