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Gran in intensive care responds to granddaughter playing harp on ward

Thursday, August 30, 2018

A critically ill Paisley patient with a significant brain injury surprised hospital staff after responding positively to her two grand-daughters playing their harps in the Intensive Care Unit. 

Maria Anderson was admitted to the Royal Alexandra Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after falling down stairs in her home. 

After three days on a ventilator Maria started to respond to doctors and nursing staff.

During a visit Karen Anderson, Maria’s daughter, played her mum a recording of her daughters, Jessica and Emily, playing their harps and she began to get a positive response from Maria. Maria became more settled and less agitated. 

The following day, staff on the unit said they noticed the music had made a relaxing impact. As a result, Dr Michael Brett, Intensive Care Consultant at the RAH, asked if Karen’s daughters would play their harps on the ward.

 Karen said: “I’d seen that playing music to my Mum had a positive effect and she was reacting to the music. 

“She had a bad fall at home and things weren’t looking good. However, I saw the effect the music was having and staff saw it as well. The girls were on their school summer holidays so Dr Brett asked if Jessica and Emily would come on to the ward and play their harps to see if Mum responded to that. 

“Not only did Mum respond, but staff noticed the effect on other patients as well while the girls played. Many of the patients relaxed and fell asleep.” 

“The girls played mainly slow Gaelic songs as this would be relaxing for patients who are in the Intensive Care Unit. It was wonderful to get a reaction from Mum and the girls both feel that they made a contribution to their Gran getting better.

“Mum then transferred to Ward 22 which specialises in brain injuries and made wonderful progress before being discharged. A lot of the staff from Intensive Care still came to visit her and they were delighted with the progress she made.” 

Dr Brett said: “We had the privilege to witness the granddaughters of a seriously ill patient play the harp for their grandmother. Their grandmother was delighted to hear them and became relaxed and calm. She has mild dementia and had sustained a significant traumatic brain injury.  

“Other patients in ICU also seemed to enjoy the impromptu concert and all relaxed, one even fell asleep. The atmosphere in ICU changed measurably with noise reduced and staff relaxed. Families of other patients commented on how beautiful the music was and how they appreciated it for their loved ones. 

“This was a fantastic example of patient centred care that was organised and supported by a dedicated group of nursing staff. Despite the seriousness of her injuries and how unwell she was the nursing staff, in conjunction with her family, were able to focus on what mattered to Maria.”

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Last Updated: 11 November 2021