By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
In a sense, the worst part of the job is losing patients. But cancer doesn't define them. Or, the brain injury doesn't define who they are. So I try to, just for that moment, allow them just to be a kid. And to give them choices. And to give them as much normalization to their day as I possibly can, and help them with those therapy goals, to get them to be more independent and to get them able to go home. And it's really cool.
It's awesome that I get to witness some of the amazing things that these kids do. Like, the progress. I love it. And progress can be defined in many different ways; it could be a kid that has a new diagnosis of neuroblastoma, or some type of cancer, or finally being able to say the word "cancer." So I do a lot of songwriting with the kids, too. It's a good way to get them to express themselves, and it gives them the feeling like they have ownership and control and power over something. And then they can start understanding and get into a better place of dealing with it.
Did you ever have any kids that found some musical talent that they didn't know that they had previously?
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St. Louis, MO 63110
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Region: St. Louis - Forest Park
Donations for St. Louis Children's Hospital's music-therapy program may be sent to: Child Life, Music Therapy/St. Louis Children's Hospital/1 Children's Place/St. Louis, MO 63110.
Yeah, there have been quite a few. This one kid, Joe, came in — he had a form of Leukemia. We'd hang out, and I'd play my guitar, and we'd write songs and stuff. I got him really into the Beatles. And then he really started wanting to play his own. So his family went out and got him a guitar and he'd come in and say, "I heard this really great new band, Black Sabbath. Have you heard of them?" [Laughs] It was hilarious. He really wanted to learn some of those songs, so I taught him some basic chords. And the next time I saw him, he had it all. It was amazing. The kid had perfect pitch. And he could improv like nobody I'd ever seen before. So, he was awesome.
But, unfortunately, he passed away. And I played at his funeral. It was very emotional, but you do get attached to the kids. When I was putting together a memory collection for their family to play at the wake, I found this song he'd written where he was kind of telling all of us that he was going to be OK. So through music he was able to express himself, not only in the moment, but also in a deeper way.
Sometimes he would get really anxious, and ask, "Am I going to die today?" And I was like, "Well, it's not likely, but someday, yeah. I'm going to die someday. It's kind of the circle of life, buddy." And he'd laugh and roll his eyes and say, "You're so cheesy."
I'll never forget this: One day we were going for a procedure and they were going to give him some anesthesia. He asked the anesthesiologist what they were going to give him and when the anesthesiologist said Propofol, he started singing Michael Jackson! [Laughs]
I love this kid!
I know, right? He had a really good sense of humor. Very dry but brilliant. I would've really loved to see what he would've done with music, because I'm really sure he would've been amazing.