'Pretty music' in the halls of SwedishAmerican

Arlene Huntley, 80, sits in her bed in room 311 of SwedishAmerican Heart Hospital and crooks an ear toward the door.

Through the beeps and squeals of machinery, through the murmurs of patients and doctors and the hum of fans, she hears something peculiar: a piano playing an old Frank Sinatra tune.

Many patients thought they were dreaming when they heard live music being played in the halls of the third floor. But it was no dream—the live piano music was a part of SwedishAmerican’s Center for Complementary Medicine.

Every Monday, Carl Cole, a well-known local musician renowned for his work with youth, plays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a floor of SwedishAmerican Hospital. Carl comes twice a month to play soothing music—mostly jazz and lighter favorites—and make the day that much easier for patients and staff.

“I try to do music that they would recognize,” Cole said. “People will come by and say, ‘I haven’t heard that song in 20 years.’”

A regular at SwedishAmerican, Cole has been a crucial part of the hospital’s Complementary Care Center.

Complementary Care Center Executive Director Cathy Keith has been helping people heal at the hospital by implementing relaxing, stress-relieving services. Live music, massages, care-takers, aromatherapy and special TV programming have formed the core of this free service at SwedishAmerican.

“It’s the nicest thing to hear, nice, calming music,” Huntley said. “I’ve never had that in a hospital. [It’s] such a nice surprise.”

The center began operation in 1997 and officially became its own department in May 2004. Since then, they have employed musicians such as Cole to use their talents to help relax patients and staff.

Focusing on healing the whole person, Keith said she believes Complementary Care helps patients get better faster, and relaxes employees and staff.

“Health care is not just about fixing an acute problem, like a heart attack,” Keith said. “Healing goes beyond that, and if we don’t address it, there will be recurring problems.”

The hospital-wide program has been offered to both patients and staff, allowing doctors and nurses to relax with a massage when things get stressful. Keith also said the vast majority that used the services offered by Complementary Care felt it made a huge difference in their daily performance.

The Center has done health sciences research to compare patients who used Complementary Care with those who did not. According to Keith, that research shows many common-sense health practices—such as eating healthy, managing stress and physical activity—greatly benefit recovery.

Keith said she believes her department has been making a difference in the lives of patients and helping them recover faster and more completely.

Thomas Anspaugh had come to visit his wife Nancy Aug. 7 and was surprised to hear some of his favorite piano songs in the hospital.

Anspaugh said, “Usually you hear moans and groans in the hospital, not pretty music.”

From the Aug. 23-29, 2006, issue

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