Music Therapy at Little Bridge House

Shabana

Little Bridge House is one of three hospices run by Children’s Hospice South West: Jessie’s Fund has supported music therapy there for some time. Ceridwen Rees, the music therapist at Little Bridge House, was furloughed during the first lockdown, and tells us that when she went back, staff and families were delighted to see and hear the building come alive with the sound of music once more. In December she described how her work was impacted:

‘I have only been back at work for four weeks and I very quickly had to learn that everyday interactions at the hospice are in many ways so very different, as one would expect in this current health crisis. Before I even contemplate doing a session, there are so many additional health considerations to make: pre-Covid-19 I would often arrive at work to find a child already in the music room waiting for me, and so my day of music-making would begin in earnest even as I took my coat off, so keen were some children to engage in music-making. Currently, the beginning of my day comprises changing into scrubs, going to the laundry room to make up a bleach-based cleaning solution, wiping all the instruments down, and then, and only then can I go down to the children’s day room (essentially another bedroom next door to their actual bedroom) to do the session. At the end of the session, I have to use the cleaning solution again and wash everything down before it leaves the room and change my PPE as I leave. So much more attention to this kind of detail is imperative in order to keep the children (and indeed ourselves) safe, but, within that bubble of time with a child, there is still much magic to be had.

‘Only this morning I had made all my preparations and spent an hour with a teenager called Shabana (her parents have requested that I use her real name) who, on the surface you may initially think might not be able to respond or interact readily, and yet, when you really spend quality time with her, gently singing and listening to her tiny vocalisations and watching the corners of her mouth turn up into a little smile, you know that you are beginning to connect with her. After about 20 minutes of ‘just being with’ this young lady, she suddenly lifted her head up and burst into song, and her voice was actually even stronger than mine and it rang out down the corridor for all to hear. Shabana flung her arms out to the sides and her whole body-language was open, trusting, inviting me to join with her and match her singing, which I endeavoured to do with my vocalisations and piano-playing… I have to be careful currently how I position myself, so that I sit alongside Shabana, rather than opposite her which would be my usual position: this makes it safe for us both to be able to duet together so that both our voices carry outwards rather than towards each other, but, with this minor adjustment, this young lady’s voice can still be heard loud and clear. Her parents say:

This is the happiest she’s been in ages, she’s got bored at home with just us: this is a happy girl.

‘In total it took about 2 hours to set up, run and tidy up after our session together, but it provided me with the most wonderful confirmation that it is even more vital that we find ways in these restricted times to enable these children’s voices to be heard. They have been ‘shut away’ and shielding for so many months, and to hear Shabana’s voice ringing out so strong and bold was a real boost for her parents, and also for the staff who have endured some very long and exhausting days this year in isolation themselves, since we are having to care for children in isolation bubbles in their bedrooms. A member of staff said:

So lovely to hear music in the house again, we have really missed it – we did our best, we tried, but it wasn’t you…’