Case History #8: 51 y.o.woman with hysterectomy

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One of the most interesting patients that I worked with was a 51 y.o. woman who was also a music therapist.    She loved music so much but suffered from severe performance anxiety and so she could never play for others and had gone into another helping profession.  However, her love of music was still intense and when she found that she could use the music she loved to help her through surgery, this is what she wanted to do!

She had been suffering from large fibroids, painful  and heavy menstrual periods since her teens and was now being told that she needed a complete hysterectomy so that she would not have to worry about the cervical cancer that had claimed her mother’s life.  Patient was extremely anxious about going under the knife, but believed that being able to listen to music as she went under general anesthesia and being able to wake up to the same gentle, rhythmic music would make it less terrifying for her.

On the day of the surgery, she was listening through her headphones from the moment she arrived at the hospital.  There was a bit of a glitch, she reported, when they finally took her back to be gowned and given an IV.  She said that having the soft, soothing music playing in her ears while they took her vital signs and asked a few last questions of her sister, was so comforting.

The surgery was a complete success and the patient reported that one of the best thing about having music was that it helped to orient her to where she was and what had just happened:  the surgery.  Despite rather bad nausea and vomiting in the ER, patient said that she still felt the music made it so much easier and more tolerable.  Remember, fear is necessarily about logic and even having lots of “head” information.  If you’re scared, you’re scared.  Let the music go in with you and comfort you…all the way!

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Music for Surgery: Profile of Hysterectomy Patient

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This past week, a dear friend of mine experienced a surgery that she was not looking forward to. (But then, who does look forward to surgery?) She had known for some time that she needed to have some large fibroid tumors removed, but did not think she would need a complete hysterectomy until a month before she had it. We talked many times about how she would use music before, during and after the surgery, but she had no idea how glad she would be that she had it ready to go when she arrived at the hospital that morning.

My friend had carefully chosen Handel’s “Watermusic Suite” to have playing through headphones during the surgery, but almost as soon as she arrived, things began to go awry. During the wait to be called back for getting into a gown and getting the IV started, she began listening to her chosen music. When she was finally called in, thee staff wouldn’t allow any family members to go with her although all she was doing was changing clothes and she was clearly scared beyond what she expected. They finally did let her sister and me go back but then informed her that they couldn’t find any of her pre-surgery blood work and would have to do it all again! She turned up her music and stuck out her arm for a repeat of the procedure she dreads so much. Shortly after that, a nurse came in telling her that they had found the blood work from three days before. My friend almost started crying but instead looked at us and pressed repeat on the CD Walkman.Then the anesthesiologist arrived. She was a woman in her forties at most, and was “all business.” There was no smile, no “how are you doing?” nothing. She even began to berate my friend when informed that someone had donated blood for her, saying that she was sure they wouldn’t use it unless it had been typed for an exact match. My friend said “but O+ is the universal donor for other + types and the doctor glared and said “I know that!!!”

It was like a scene from a bad soap opera but my friend remained steadfast now with her trusty CD player mostly obliterating the conversation that her sister and I were having with this physician.Finally, the surgeon entered the room and she was as kind as could be. Soon, my friend was wheeled away and the OR staff assured us they would change the CD to the recovery music once the surgery was finished. This, they did. We never expected these kinks in the process, but my friend has said that the music made such a difference in being able to tolerate these difficulties and that in the recovery room, she was able to recognize the music she had chosen. The familiarity provided comfort and reassurance to her that words could not have provided. Studies continue to come out that document this anecdotal report.

Please remember this when you or a friend needs surgery. It is so easy and so worthwhile. My “Music for Surgery “ audio tapes are intended to help prepare you mentally, emotionally and spiritually for surgery. They work well for the preop, operative and postop periods of your surgical experience. I also offer links to amazing music for purchase through Amazon online that can also help significantly. You won’t believe the results!

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