Music therapy program brightens stay for families at Madison children’s hospital

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MADISON (WKOW) — A program to help kids cope with long stays in the hospital is providing support to families going through some of their toughest times.

Samantha Sinai is the music therapist for American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison. She’s visited more than 500 children in the past two years since the program was created.

Sinai says singing and playing instruments brings something positive for kids facing a health crisis.

“I see, a lot of times when I walk in the room, the light is not in them anymore and what’s really amazing is once they start playing an instrument and really getting engaged in music, I can see that light come back, even if it’s just for a moment,” Sinai told 27 News.

Sinai is a board certified music therapist. She says music is proven to reduce pain, stress and anxiety, which many of her patients go through every day.

“They are anxious, they’re having trouble coping, they’re in pain,” she said. “They know that music is a way that they can express themselves.”

Nurse practitioner Lynne Sears has worked at American Family Children’s Hospital for nearly 20 years. She says she’s seen an improvement in how patients and their families cope with their time in the hospital.

“The stress, it’s a ripple effect. It’s stressful for the child, it’s stressful for everybody involved,” she said. “We’ve actually had parents who’ve learned to play instruments to help deal with their stress, so it’s something that they can do for their child and it’s just been phenomenal.”

It gives families something to focus on during a long stay and calms patients before going through stressful procedures.

Strumming the guitar with Sinai has kept two-year-old Oliver’s spirits up. He’s spent almost all his life at the hospital.

Oliver was born with congenital heart disease and finally went home for the first time after birth in August 2018.

“It was hard…the monotony for us and for him being her everyday the uncertainty,” his mother Alyssa Koesch said. “He went through three major heart surgeries and hundreds of other procedures. He’s a really strong, tough little guy, so things have turned out well.”

He’s back in the hospital with pneumonia right now, but smiling ear-to-ear when Sinai sings to him.

“[He doesn’t] necessarily get to experience the things that an average kid would, so it’s kind of special in that way,” Koesch told 27 News.

The therapy is helping Oliver and other patients heal, even after the toughest traumas.

“I feel so lucky to be able to be there with them and bring out that light and it fills me with light, too,” said Sinai.

The hospital’s music therapy program is supported with donations. Click here for more information on how you can help.

Just last month, Madison area piano students hosted a Play-A-Thon to raise money to help bring music to kids at the hospital.

Jennifer Kliese

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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