Boyle Heights hospital uses music therapy to help children get through painful medical treatments

Denise Dador Image
Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Boyle Heights hospital uses music therapy to treat children
Music therapy is helping young patients get through painful medical treatments and one hospital in Boyle Heights is trying out the method.

Studies show that music heals. It's a form of therapy that helps young patients get through painful medical treatments.

Now one local hospital is trying out some new musical tools.

It starts with the keyboard. Add in some percussion.

The next thing you know 11-year-old Bryan Huerta of Montebello is joining in.

Bryan, a patient at Adventist Health White Memorial, is taking a much needed break. He's about to have surgery for gallstones.

"It feels like a sledge hammer, like smashing into your stomach," Bryan said.

But when he starts playing, the pain disappears.

"It makes me relaxed and happy," he said.

"Music also affects vital signs, it can affect blood pressure and heart rate," Dr. Tony Moretti, Chief of Pediatrics at Adventist Health White Memorial, said.

The state-of-the-art music carts are from the Children's Music Fund, a non-profit that started 16 years ago when Dr. Raffi Tachdjian gifted a terminally-ill patient with a guitar.

"This kid would just thrive," Tachdijian said. "Playing the guitar like I could never play."

Music therapists enhance Bryan's mood and creativity.

"This is his music," said Jana Skrien Koppula, a music therapy coordinator with the Children's Music Fund. "This is his song. This is his voice coming through."

The music also distracts patients from the pain of IV pokes and blood draws.

"It's also about taking the scariness away," Moretti said.

Besides playing for fun, kids can sing, play different instruments and create their own music with this state of the art recording studio.

"They can actually take that piece and re-listen to it. And re-evoke those good memories," Tachdijian said. "And you're creating songs to overcome this pain, anxiety and all the negativity, and turning it into a positive."

Bryan is exploring different ways to make sound.

It's a form of expression that's healing for everyone.

"I'm consistently learning from these kids," Koppula said. "This is what I love about my job."