March 30, 2009
Healing Music in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
Sometimes healing comes through low-tech interventions in high-tech medical environments. That thought resonated with me when I came across an article in the McAllen Chronicle, describing the work of Dr. Anatoliy Ilizarov, the medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Mission Regional Medical Center in Mission, Texas. As you can imagine, stress is rampant in a NICU, for staff, families and the tiny, fragile patients. Dr. Ilizarov, a trained classical pianist, began streaming music into the NICU to help reduce stress, and discovered that the premature infants began to gain weight faster, and began to feed earlier. Staff and families felt more relaxed as well. Dr. Ilizarov theorizes that the beat of the music, between 60-80 beats per minute, mimics the mother's heartbeat while the infant is in the womb. I was struck by the simple beauty of this intervention, a doctor who is a pianist using his gifts of art and science to heal gently. Good work, Dr. Ilizarov!