One of our first patients to use music during surgery, was a 70 year-old female with 90% blocked arteries. She had not yet experienced a heart attack, but was in grave danger of having one. She was moderately overweight and had a diet consisting of many fatty foods, fried foods, sugary foods and lots of diet soda. Her exercise level was almost non-existant because of arthritic hips, knees and other joint problems.
One Fall evening, she and her husband attended a local college basketball game at their coliseum. At half-time, the patient began to climb the stairs to the level where restrooms were and got so out of breath that she nearly passed out and could not continue the climb. First-aid staff was called and eventually patient was put into an ambulance and sent to the emergency room. Suspected heart attack was the initial diagnosis. After a short time, it was determined that she should be transferred to a larger, regional hospital with more services. This was when we were called in for a consult on whether or not music might be advisable.
The patient could not handle large amounts of anesthesia and was allergic to many pain meds, which made her violently nauseous. On day 3 of hospitalization I met with patient to discuss her taste in music and to recommend 4 or 5 different possibilities. Patient was not feeling well and was only mildly to moderately enthusiastic about using music with her upcoming open heart surgery. (This was 1996) Finally, patient said to me “why don’t you just choose whatever you think would be best as long as it isn’t “Nearer my God to Thee.”
Surgery was early the next morning and patient listened to Handel’s “Water Music Suite” through light-weight headphones for about four hours of surgery. The surgeon called us back after surgery to see patient and was I in for a surprise! Upon approaching her bed in the recovery area, patient propped herself up on an elbow and said “Oh Dr. Cash, the music was BEAUTIFUL!!” I will never have surgery again without using music! It was just so beautiful and I really enjoyed it!!” Wow!
I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone before or since tell me that they enjoyed surgery, but then she was still “under the influence” of some of the drugs. When I visited her in her room the next day, she still had her headphones one and said they helped her sleep in an otherwise quite noisy environment. “A hospital is no place to get any rest and I want to go home as soon as possible.” She went home 5 days later and is still doing well and listening to her headphones!