Health Headlines: Music therapy heals 5-year-old’s soul during hospital stays

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Published: May. 5, 2023 at 7:33 PM CDT
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(KPLC) - Being hospitalized is a difficult and often traumatic experience for anyone, but for children, it can be especially challenging. That’s why some hospitalize are treating young patients’ anxiety through music.

Children with serious health issues are often forced to endure painful medical treatments, unfamiliar people and separation from their families. As a result, many of them experience anxiety, depression and other emotional challenges in the hospital.

Therapies that don’t involve any medications, needle pricks or painful surgeries are helping kids heal. It’s more than just playtime for 5-year-old Emmett Bleyle – each song helps him heal.

“Emmet’s official diagnosis is PMM2 congenital disorder of glycosylation,” said Emmett’s mom, Rylie Bleyle.

Bleyle was told her baby boy would not live until his first birthday.

“They didn’t think he had another six months in him. And here we are,” she said.

Emmett averages two to three hospital stays a month with a care team of more than 18 specialists. His mother believes a key to his survival is music.

“I started seeing Emmett when he was like 18 months old. He was so small and he couldn’t sit up,” said dance and movement therapist Sara Schmidt.

Expressive therapists at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital believe music, dance, art and play help hospitalized kids through the physical, emotional and psychological issues that come with illnesses and long hospital stays.

“Music accesses a different part of your brain than other modalities do. And so through music and the arts, we’re able to accomplish different goals,” said expressive therapies manager Katie LaHue.

Therapists use music to motivate kids like Emmett to work on different developmental goals.

“Sometimes we can reach these kiddos better than other providers here in the hospital can,” LaHue said.

Studies show expressive therapies help children manage their pain and anxiety, boost immunity and contribute to faster physical healing.

The music therapists at Intermountain Children’s Hospital also do legacy work – they work with parents to create a song when their child is nearing the end of their life. They play the song for the child and record it, creating a special memory for the parents.