A love song for Baby Hazel
Using a digital stethoscope and a computer, therapist blends music with the soothing sounds of a beating heart.
Carol Chaffin Published: 5/19/2017
In the last several months, Tiffany Perry has become all too familiar with the random beeps and hums coming from the machines that surround her daughter Hazel’s hospital bassinet.
But on a recent morning, Hazel’s room was filled with more uplifting sounds. Julie Avirett, MM, MT-BC, a board-certified music therapist came to visit with a sweet smile and her guitar, and turned the room into a mini-recording studio.
“I’ve written a special song for Hazel,” said Avirett, strumming her guitar. “Sweet little Hazel, came into this world early, weighing just shy of 2 pounds, sweet little miracle, sweet little miracle,” she sang.
“She is my little miracle with all the stuff she’s been through,” Perry said.
The visit from Avirett was not only a welcome distraction, but therapy for her little daughter. Using a special piece of technology called a digital stethoscope, Avirett gently recorded Hazel’s heartbeat and used a program called GarageBand to digitally mix it with the track she had just been singing – all at Hazel’s bedside.
Avirett played the recording for Perry, and there, sure enough, you could hear Hazel’s little heartbeat ticking along in rhythm.
“I’m very thankful for this,” said Perry. “I’ll play it for her when she gets older and tell her where it came from.”
It has been a stressful few months for Perry since Hazel, now 4 months old, was transferred to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in December from a hospital in Pensacola, with complications related to her premature birth at 27 weeks.
“I’ve been getting through it, but it’s been a crazy time,” Perry said.
Patients like Hazel benefit from the special therapy that music provides. Wolfson Children’s offers it to patients through referrals from the medical team, and sessions are tailored to each patient’s needs.
The soothing nature of music has many therapeutic effects, from changing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and managing pain to easing anxiety and teaching coping skills.
Family Support Services Manager Pat Kirkland, MS, CCLS, who oversees Child Life services and Music Therapy, applied for a $500 “Get Well Soon” grant from the GetWellNetwork to purchase the Thinklabs One – Digital Stethoscope.
“This kind of technology is a meaningful intervention for our patients and families,” Kirkland said. “It allows for self-expression because kids can create a song and have their heartbeat blended with it. Or we can use it to record a parent’s heartbeat to provide comfort to an infant.
“When a child has a life-limiting illness, the heartbeat recording can provide a legacy to the family,” she added
For Avirett, it’s a wonderful complement to the special form of therapy she provides patients and families. And it means something to her, too.
“It’s not only a way for me to help these children, but to capture all the things they have overcome,” she said.
“I’m thankful to Get Well Network for providing the funding, and to Julie for being open to expanding her scope of practice by learning this new technology,” said Kirkland. “Together, they help us provide exceptional care to our patients and families.”