If you were visiting a loved one in the hospital, or were in the hospital yourself, you almost certainly wouldn’t expect to hear the sounds of a violin echoing through the halls just outside the door of your patient room. But, every now and then, patients and families at Blount Memorial Hospital hear just that – the strings of a violin playing just for them.
“It’s amazing,” said Mike Bradham, holding the very violin in question. “People love it, and I’ve had so many nice comments. When I start walking down the hall and playing, you’ll see heads pop out of the doors. You get a lot of smiles, and you also get a lot of nice conversations,” Bradham added.
In addition to teaching music at Maryville Christian School, Bradham is the program coordinator for “The Healing Notes,” a volunteer music program at Blount Memorial that started last fall. It’s a role he found himself in after playing for cancer patients as part of RIO Revolution Church.
“The church has a relationship with a ministry for people battling cancer. The lady in charge asked if I would be interested in helping people by just going up and down the hall and playing music,” Bradham said. “My wife, Cindy, works at the hospital. I used to come pick her up at work, and I would come 30 minutes early and play my violin up and down the halls while I waited on her,” he said.
“The Healing Notes” is composed of 25 volunteers from various churches in the area, all of whom come whenever they can to perform for patients. While Bradham’s specialty is the violin, other volunteers play the guitar, the flute or sing in groups.
“It’s encouraging,” Bradham said. “We try to brighten people’s days a little bit while they’re sitting in the hospital. The doctors and nurses are trying to heal the body. What I can do with music is try to brighten their spirits,” he explained.
Brightening spirits also is the goal of Blount Memorial’s new art program for cancer patients undergoing infusion treatments. Local artist Deede Edele created the pilot program for the hospital earlier this year. Edele, along with five other local artists, took part in a six-session art class for patients and family members that saw them creating a variety of art and craft projects.
“Patients who felt well enough to participate in the projects appreciated how quickly the time passed when they had something fun and creative to do,” Edele said. “I was pleasantly surprised when a mother and daughter returned to the class even when the mother didn’t have a scheduled infusion appointment,” she added.
There’s no denying that treatment for cancer can be exhausting. Edele says the art projects give patients the opportunity to – quite simply – play. “It’s a way of coping with emotions and stress, while relaxing and enjoying the activity,” she said. “When a person is engaged by focusing on the art project, it brings them into a different space. Art gives the freedom to express emotions that can otherwise be difficult to express. The creative process influences health in a positive way, which strengthens the emotional and mental well-being of not only the patient, but also the family members who participate,” she explained.
The art projects require no particular artistic skills, are simple enough to complete within about 90 minutes and are ready to be displayed upon completion. The program is offered at no charge to cancer patients and their families. While the pilot program ended in June, the full, year-long program is set to return in September on a monthly basis.
Area artists who are interested in attending an informational meeting to find out how to participate in the program can contact Edele via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about “The Healing Notes,” contact Blount Memorial assistant administrator Connie Huffman at 865-977-5531.