The last time to walk the halls. The last patient. The last request for music therapy referrals. The last time to take off my badge. Today was my last day of work at the hospital because of restructuring. 5 contract music therapists will go down to only 1-2 part-time employees, and the hours required were too much for me to continue. It’s hard to describe how working at St. Anthony Hospital has changed me. I remember the entire journey so well. After the music therapy program I created at Denver Health was halted, I felt defeated and had very low confidence in my skills as a music therapist. I truly believed that I had reached the peak in my career and was on my way down. After multiple attempts to find gainful employment as a music therapist, I had failed multiple times. I was convinced that I was a part of the problem and was done pursuing failure. Enter St. Anthony Hospital (SAH).
An acquaintance I had met a year prior emailed me out of the blue and told me about an opening at SAH. This surprised me because I told her in passing to let me know if they ever had an opening, and we hadn’t emailed or talked since then. I was shocked that she remembered. How thoughtful!!! I debated a lot. Do I really want to try this AGAIN? This would be my 3rd hospital, and the last two left me very defeated. I can’t take more rejection. After my great debate ended, I talked with Paul and decided to go for it. During my interview, I grew in excitement. The job promised flexible hours, a kind and caring boss, direct patient contact, a wage that worked for me, colleagues and a program that had been in place for 14 years at the time. I was thrilled when I received the call. . . . .We want you to join our team! Wait. . . .what? I get to be on a team and work with other music therapists? THIS IS AWESOME!!!!! I have always worked alone!
I spent 2 1/2 years working at both campuses, but mostly at SAH. Everything about this job was amazing. I could take time off when needed it and had a secure job. It was perfect during this time of life with a young child.
Many times I have said this job is the best job of my career. That is an understatement. I grew in confidence and relationships. Both will last for years. My patient interactions have blessed me tremendously. It would take me hours to tell all of the stories that I have kept in my heart over the years. But for now, I will take the time to tell a few of my favorites. With patient confidentiality in mind, I will refrain from using names and leave out any identifying details.
Just a few weeks ago, I was working on my favorite ICU floor. I stepped out of a patient’s room and was met by a nurse who called me aside. He said, “hey. . . .would you mind playing a song for this patient? He is alone and is actively dying. I won’t leave his side because I refuse to let him die alone. If you could do this for him, I would really appreciate it.” Of course I said yes and went right in. Based on what he knew of the patient, we guessed he would enjoy some classic rock since the patient was unresponsive at this point. I turned to “Don’t Stop Believin'” and sang to him as if he were listening to every note. I kept a close watch on his heart beat, and noticed it was slowing down and barely noticeable. I got lost in the song toward the end, and after I hit the last note, the nurse said, “The patient has passed.” And just like that, I played his last song. We both were with him so he wouldn’t die alone, and I cannot describe how special that was to me. To be a part of someone’s life and death. . . .to support someone no matter who they are or what their background is. . . .is touching.
Over the years I have had patients who were homeless, and they were some of my favorite patients. Why? Because the homeless are perceived by some to be the lowest of the low. Many times people believe they put themselves there and don’t deserve any special treatment. But when it comes to music therapy, no one has to deserve us. We serve everyone equally. And providing them with unconditional treatment, the same treatment I would give to the president if he were in the hospital. . . .it means a lot to them. Many patients say, “Thank you. . . .thank you for playing for me” as they put their hand to their chest. I remember visiting an older lady who was homeless. I saw her several times, and we grew on each other. She talked about her “corner” where she would gather with her friends and the local bar she would frequent. When I would drive by that corner, I would go to work and tell her that I saw her friends. We would talk forever and sing old rock songs. She would sing along too! I followed her from the medical floor to the ICU and then was approached by her daughter when she was unresponsive and in the process of dying. Her daughter requested music therapy just one more time because it had meant so much to her mom.
One of my most memorable sessions was at the north campus. I asked a family member if her sister would like music therapy. She said no she wouldn’t be able to do anything. I convinced her to try since it can also be beneficial for her as a family member. I talked about how music is the last memory to leave our minds. We sang several hymns and the patient seemed disconnected from the music. Then I decided to try I’ll Fly Away. The patient turned her head toward me and her toe started moving to the beat. I said, “go ahead and sing with me!” And she did! She also sang along with Jesus Loves Me and Peace Like a River. While this was happening, her sister was scrambling to find money to donate. She was so grateful and after music therapy, the patient was talking to her sister about the music. What a wonderful thing. The music was used to bring these two together and initiate meaningful interaction.
I chose when to end my day today and asked God to make it clear who my last patient should be. I wanted to end on a high note. I happened upon a sweet sweet 95 year old with a voice to match. She talked my ear off about her life and told me how she was gonna make it to 100! By golly! She reminded me of my Mee-Maw. Nothing miraculous happened except the precious interaction God blessed me with. I couldn’t have ended with a better patient.
As I finished up my last day today, I had a flood of emotions. Walking off the 4th floor to the elevators, I said, “this is my last walk down this hallway.” I returned to our office and it hit me that this was it. I finished up my paperwork, collected my things, left my badge and keys in my box and walked away. No big hurrah. That was it. I don’t know how I kept from crying. Maybe it was a protective mechanism. But when I returned home, it sunk in that I was done. This season is over, and it was such a glorious season. During orientation before I started working there, we filled out a little card that stated our goals at SAH. When I read them today, I felt accomplished because I met all of them, and that gives me closure:
Personal Goal: To increase confidence in my skills, Dept Goal: To develop relationships with other MTs, Hospital Goal: To give 100% every day I’m at work.
So long faithful friend. It was a good run. You taught me a lot, and I am forever grateful.