A crying child commands your attention.
To Katie, music therapist in training, it’s an alarm that calls for instant response. She grabs her emergency ukulele and leaps into action.
Music Therapy is sometimes the very best antidote available for a frightened child. It soothes anxiety, distracts and, as Katie puts it, redirects attention from, in this case, eye drops.
Little Alex, 5, does not want to get out of his stroller. He frantically shakes his head, his signature brown curls flying. He knows what’s up and he is not happy. But then he spots Katie carefully setting that beautiful 4-stringed polished wood ukulele on the hospital bed, along with maracas and a xylophone and he quickly forgets the peril of a nurse standing by to continually put drops in his eyes for the very cataract surgery that has roused his suspicions.
Katie calmly starts playing her own guitar and Alex’s fear melts away like magic. He hops out of the stroller and grabs the ukulele with a mischievous grin.
Suddenly he isn’t bothered at all by that nurse because Katie is singing Recuerdame from the movie Coco in Spanish.
Aunque tenga que decir adios
No dejes que te haga llorar
Though I have to say goodbye, remember me, don’t let it make you cry
Alex’s dad, who doesn’t speak much English, perks up too. He sees that Katie is connecting with his frightened son and he is grateful for the comfort. Music Therapy wouldn’t exist without donors like Fletchers Music Centers and Bill Edwards who believe in its benefits.
Soon they are singing their ABCs and all is well in the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Pre-op waiting room.
Katie keeps Alex distracted while his parents, who are originally from Puerto Rico, talk with the nurse through a translator. They’ve driven several hours from their home on the recommendation of their pediatrician in Lehigh Acres.
In this moment, Katie understands the full power of music. She is able to communicate with people who speak another language. She can ease their fears and bring them joy even in a stressful and frightening moment.
In Spanish or in English, little Alex, who clutches the ukulele tightly all the way into surgery, would surely agree.