Norton Children's Hospital preserves patients' heartbeat in stuffed animals
Norton Children's Hospital is discovering new ways to bring comfort to families of its sickest patients. This idea is all heart, the latest in musical therapy that's been adopted by hundreds of other hospitals around the world.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Norton Children's Hospital is discovering new ways to bring comfort to families of its sickest patients. This idea is all heart, the latest in musical therapy, that's been adopted by hundreds of other hospitals around the world.
At three and a half months old, tiny Stella Louise Paul has already been on the journey of her life. "When she went into respiratory cardiac arrest, we saw things that I don't wish anyone see happen to their child," says Stella's mother, Mari-Elise Paul.
It was right after Christmas when Paul and her husband, Bruce rushed their new baby to the hospital, putting her into the hands of doctors and nurses. "There was one wonderful fellow who gave her 75 good minutes of CPR," Paul said.
After those 75 minutes, she was on life support for a week. Her parents learned she had four times the amount of blood flowing from her heart to her lungs as she should. "They take physical care of Stella, but they've also taken mental and emotional care of us," Paul said.
Like Stella, patients in the hospital's PICU can spiral in an instant. "We then go to work on figuring out how we can isolate a few of the strongest and purest beats?" says Jessie Gordon, a child life therapist.
"Once we have it, we can do a million different things with it. For instance, put it inside teddy bears," said music therapist Brian Schreck.
This group is working to add a little comfort to families' lives. WDRB first met Schreck a few years ago in Cincinnati. The music therapist is transforming heartbeats into chords.
"It was a light bulb. There it is. It's right inside of them, and it's a perfect piece of rhythm that we can create anything out of," Schreck said.
Fellow music therapist Brett Northrup at Norton Healthcare heard about what he was doing. "Honestly mind-blowing," Northrup said. "We're discovering new ways to meet the needs of our families all the time and it's really exciting when that happens."
The music therapists are passing along their knowledge, using a special stethoscope to record and Apple's Garage Band system.
"Every heart beat sounds different. It reminds me of fingerprints, that no two really are the same," Gordon said.
The heartbeats and a child's legacy are preserved. "Our heart is where we love and it's how we love. So, for parents to really get to hear that beat, the center point of their child, is just incredible," Gordon said.
The cuddly animals are used for bereavement and for separated siblings. For the Pauls, it means the strength of their little girl who still has some surgeries to go.
"Our nurse let us listen to her heartbeat through the stethoscope and that's exactly what her heartbeat sounds like. It's really unique. It's special because we didn't know if Stella was going to come out of the PICU, come out with her heartbeat bear, but now, we're able to think of this bear as a commemoration of one step of her CHD journey," Paul said.
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