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A smiling child for every song
Health | April 8, 2015

At Janeway Children’s Hospital, Patients enjoy rehabilitation through the sound of music.

Music therapy is a treatment used in many hospitals across the country. Imagine being a mom or a dad, a brother or a sister, and seeing someone in your family getting immense joy from music – music with medical benefits. At Janeway Hospital, music has become another form of pain management. It has evolved into a system of rehabilitation for those with cerebral palsy, and a way to help enhance motor skills, as well as provide an outlet for non-verbal communication.

“Patients respond to music therapy right away because music is a part of everyone’s life and it’s something familiar. It’s also something that’s comfortable as a child,” said Susan Lemessurier Quinn, MMT, MTA Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre Music Therapy Program. “When children come into the hospital, music is familiar to them. They feel comfortable right away and the music motivates them to do things that perhaps they have never done before.”

The Janeway Music Therapy Program has grown organically. It began humbly five years ago with just a couple of hours a week dedicated to the children. Today, with Susan’s hard work and increased support, the program is now running four days a week and engaging with more children. Supporting this program was the perfect opportunity for us to connect with our community and make an impact on the health and well-being of our youth. We provided $10,000 towards the hospital’s music therapy program.

“When Susan Lemessurier Quinn came in it was the first time my son smiled and enjoyed other people around him...if this could be a full-time service I believe children wouldn't need to stay as long!"

Janeway Music Therapy Program parent

The story of a baby boy being monitored in ICU with a very complex medical situation and having difficulty breathing on his own is an example of the powerful impact music has on patients. The baby was hooked up to many different machines and suffering with chronic respiratory distress. Nurses had to administer medication to bring down the baby’s heart rate because he wasn’t able to himself. That’s where Janeway’s music therapy program came in.

“I improvise music based on what the patient needs at that moment and time – so I sing, play guitar, play my flute. On this occasion, I played my flute and matched it to the little boy’s heartbeat, which I saw on the monitor, as well as his breathing. I watched his chest going up and down and I matched that with the music,” said Susan. “I created a song for him in the moment to the beat of his heart rate. I gradually slowed the music down so I could slow his heart rate down. You could see it decrease on the monitor. By the end of the music therapy session he did not need any medication to reduce his heart rate.”