Music Helps Girl Cope With Awaiting Transplant
(CBS) – Seven-year-old Ireland Larson loves music, dancing and her stuffed bear that sits next to her hospital bed. Her room is filled with stuffed animals, drawings, games. Her heart-shaped red guitar is her prized possession.
"It's red, with a little white square. I can't play any songs but I know how to play the chords. My favorite band is Imagine Dragons. They actually came to see me. I have a picture with them over there," she says, pointing to a far wall, filled with pictures of friends and family and even Staley, the Chicago Bears' mascot.
Ireland isn't an ordinary kid. She's been waiting for a heart transplant at Lurie Children's Hospital for several months.
"I'm from Minnesota, but they couldn't do it there so we came here," she explains.
Two times a week, she works with Elizabeth Klinger as part of Lurie Children's music therapy program.
"Music therapy began during World War II, where nurses sung to injured soldiers to decrease their anxiety and connection with humanity," said Klinger. "Eventually music therapists began working with children."
Ireland was born with an under developed heart, and has been waiting for a transplant for months.
"We work with Ireland about twice a week. It's very expressive. It's a means of releasing energy, especially for kids who are here for a long time. It can supplement that need for kids to run around, to get their energy out, so music therapy is a way for them to do that," Klinger says.
Children shouldn't be defined by their illness, she says, and music therapy helps to normalize disease and injury, release fear and anxiety during procedures and allows patients and families to process the effects of hospitalization in a non-threatening environment.
Ireland's mother, Kathleen Larson, says it's been a long journey, but the music is a much-needed distraction for long days in the hospital.
"We found out about two years ago we'd have to go the transplant route. All of these therapies help, but music, because that's what she is connected to the most, is by far the best therapy for her while she's here," the mother says.
Ireland plays the chimes and bangs on the keyboard with a big smile on her face. She asks her therapists to start over so she can get the note just right. She knows a new heart could come any day.
"I'll be happy but I know I'll also be kind of scared," she says.
Music, she says, gives her hope and strength to keep waiting another day.
"I can do it," Ireland says.
Larson says her daughter inspires her to stay strong, too.
"To sit in a hospital for nine months, day in and day out, she finds happiness in the smallest things. I don't know where her strength comes from or how she does it," she says. "She inspires me and gives me perspective every day."
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