In directing Edward Hospital’s Healing Arts program, Candace Olander arranges what she calls “5-minute vacations” for patients, visitors and staff. The planes, trains and automobiles for these mini-breaks are the concerts given across Edward’s Naperville campus, and the rotating art exhibits featured at its Plainfield and Naperville locations.
“When you’re in a stressful situation you have to get out of your head once in a while, whether you’re an employee, a patient or a family member,” Olander said.
That might mean getting lost in a painting by a local artist or being touched by a piece of music. The program’s 12 professional musicians and numerous volunteers play a wide range of music in the lobbies, the Cancer Center, the Heart Hospital, and Same Day Surgery. Instruments range from piano, violin, guitar or harp, to more exotic instruments, such as a Japanese koto.
Carol Stream residents Don and Margaret Sutenbach have experienced the program from several perspectives. Don is a volunteer at the Edward Cancer Center, and Margaret receives regular treatments at the center for metastatic breast cancer.
“I love the music when I come in for infusion therapy,” Margaret said. “It’s very relaxing, especially the harp.”
Don oversees the volunteers who deliver food to the center’s outpatients.
“When I’m working, I might stop for a minute to listen to Ed Dulaney play the guitar, and I sing along in my head,” Don said. “It’s a peaceful feeling and helps pass the time.”
Dulaney was inspired to volunteer in the Healing Arts program because his late wife told him it made her chemotherapy seem easier when he played the guitar for her during treatments.
“I’ve seen the effects on other families as well,” Dulaney recalled. “One day Robert Kramer was playing piano in the Heart Hospital lobby, and he saw a woman holding up her iPhone in his direction. She came up to him afterwards and told him that she had phoned her mom’s room to let her listen to his music. The mother was not expected to live through the night. She said, when her mother heard him play “The Anniversary Waltz,” it brought back some good memories.”
The program had some challenges early.
“When the program started 12 years ago, live music in patient care areas was almost unheard of,” Olander said. “Many of our staff were reluctant to schedule the musicians until they saw the response over time. Now they see the musicians walk in the door and their faces light up. They ask them, ‘Will you be in my area, too?’”
Olander says she has learned over the years what works best in a health-care setting, and she screens for musicians who can adapt.
“Sometimes situations develop where they need to fold up and disappear promptly,” Olander said. “Having a core of professional musicians who can do that has been key.
The program benefits all involved.
“The exposure is good for (the musicians), but there is more than that,” Olander says.
Harpist Laura Fako Utley said it best.
“I have learned the power of music through the give-and-take in these situations,” Utley said. “Now I see what music does for people, and I’m a better musician for it.”
For information about the Edward Healing Arts program, visit www.edward.org/healingarts or call 630-527-3343.
Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.