When I was invited to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, I was incredibly humbled by the invitation. I was also a little apprehensive. Could I hold it together in the presence of children facing such challenges?
As I was guided through the hospital, many patients, even infants, were wearing hospital masks. The urge to hug every child was palpable.
Every inch of the hospital is inspiring and what makes it most memorable are the children and staff. It truly is a happy place. The hospital is set to expand in the next 6 years and with that expansion comes the addition of more talented individuals. Recently, I was lucky enough to speak with one of their dedicated staff members, Amy Love.
Amy is the first music therapist to join St. Jude. She will be part of the new music room set to open soon.
At the University of Dayton, Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and a minor in psychology. She went on to earn her master’s degree in music therapy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. Additionally, she holds certifications in NICU music therapy and neurologic music therapy.
A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Amy had a deep admiration for St. Jude and their work. She fell in love with pediatrics and was “willing to go anywhere” to be a part of it.
The list of diseases the hospital researches and treats is impressive. St. Jude has increased the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) from 4% before opening in 1962 to 94% today!
During treatment, a child can experience different levels of discomfort such as fatigue, depression, and many other side effects.
“Writing a song with a child is a way for them to cope,” says Amy. “We work with a variety of instruments. We can work on drumming, the guitar, or the ukulele.”
Music is healing. To a child suffering from cancer, it can be a day where they may not want to get out of bed. Providing musical therapy to a child requires meticulous planning. Amy consults with a St. Jude specialists to review the patient’s diagnosis and emotional effects. With that, Amy will ask the child what type of music they like.
“I find ways to work with the child. If the child is at a very young age, then I will invite the family to be part of the musical process. We make it fun and bring in fresh ways to accommodate the child.”
As I talk with Amy, I remember the moments where I broke down in tears during my visit to the hospital. I asked how she copes. “At times, the children can become very sick and it’s very difficult to cope,” explains Amy.
“Everyone at St. Jude is wonderful! Self-care is important to all of us. We’re surrounded by a very supportive team.”
As Amy describes her time with the children of St. Jude, her voice fills with joy and admiration for them. No matter the case, children are resilient and often surprise Amy.
“Some children want to improv on the spot! The younger ones love to beat box! Depending on their energy level, the creation of a song can begin sadly. But it usually ends up being an upbeat and happy song.”
Care at St Jude Children’s Hospital is free. With daily operations upwards of $2.2 million, every donation is the key to keeping the hospital going and one day eradicating childhood cancer.
“One thing is to see their commercials. It’s another when you witness resilience of the children. “The more people support our mission, the more we can have the children express themselves and make their treatment easier. It’s an honor to work at St. Jude,” shares Amy.
Feature image: (LR) Farrah Courville, Amy Love