The day before she was scheduled to be discharged from the Center for Rehabilitation at Wilmington Hospital after rehabilitation for brain surgery, Janice Ruge of Woodstown, N.J., received an unexpected treat. Wilmington folksinger John Flynn stopped by the unit and chatted with Ruge, asking about her favorite music and if he could turn her sixth-floor room into a mini-concert hall.
“I can’t get anybody to listen to me sing,” joked Flynn, an accomplished singer-songwriter, who has traveled the nation performing his songs.
Nodding and smiling at his lighthearted manner, 52-year-old Ruge said she was a fan of country music and that she and her sister would happily be his audience. With that, the lyrical strains of an acoustic guitar filled the room as Flynn played his inspirational ballad, “Love Takes a Whole Box of Crayons.” It tells the story of a boy drawing a picture and wondering what color expresses true love. In the song’s refrain, Flynn explains that there are many colors to life and that “love is the heart’s rainbow.”
It was a warm sentiment exchanged in a private moment. Ruge beamed with delight. Her sister, Tina Zeuli, sat next to her, listening intently and tearing up.
Flynn’s visit was the debut of Musicians on Call at Christiana Care. Every Wednesday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. local musicians, volunteering their time, visit with patients in both the Center for Rehabilitation and on the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) Unit, where they offer a bedside performance.
“This is a good idea,” said Zeuli.
At the end of the performance, Flynn said he was thankful for a chance to share his music and added, “Jan, you’re a sweetheart. Come see me in a show and we’ll do a song together.”
One of the strongest advocates for starting Musicians on Call at Christiana Care has been Margarita Rodriguez-Duffy, MSW CAVS, director of Visitor & Volunteer services. A musician played at her brother’s beside six years ago, when he was dying, and it was a powerful experience for members of her family.
“I knew that Christiana Care must have this,” she said.
Shawn R. Smith, MBA, vice president of patient experience at Christiana Care, said he was grateful for the efforts of Rodriguez-Duffy to launch the Musicians on Call program in the Center for Rehabilitation and the ACE (Acute Care for the Elderly) Unit. In both units, patients tend to have a longer-than-average hospital stays as they work at overcoming serious health challenges.
“We always look for innovative ways to improve the experience of our patients and their families while they are here under our roof,” said Smith. “I am confident that Musicians on Call will bring a lot of joy and love and spirit into the hospital for patients and their families.”
The Center for Rehabilitation at Wilmington Hospital provides comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation services to adult patients and is one of fewer than 100 rehab centers nationwide fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities for its brain injury, amputation and stroke programs and for comprehensive adult inpatient care. Wilmington Hospital’s ACE Unit improves clinical outcomes in older patients by preventing complications and preserving the patients’ functional ability.
In my life there have been low points where music was part of my emotional turnaround. Bringing music to patients on the mend is a great idea.
As work nears completion on Christiana Care’s $210 million renovation of Wilmington Hospital, the time is right to launch the program, said Sharon Kurfuerst, Ed.D, OTR/L, FAOTA, senior vice president of administration at Christiana Care.
“Our mission is to serve our neighbors as respectful, caring partners,” she said. “Musicians on Call will take us a long way toward continued patient satisfaction and engagement in health and wellness, beyond just the physical aspects of wellness.”
On the first afternoon of performances, Kurfuerst dropped by the room of Andrea Levine of North Wilmington to see if she enjoyed the experience. Suffering from a rare and complex degenerative nerve disease, Levine said her day had been brightened by welcoming two musicians to her room.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” Levine said.
Wilmington singer-songwriter Angela Sheik was one of the musicians who stopped by. An electronic music innovator with a memorable sound, Sheik was excited by the chance to perform for Levine.
“In my life there have been low points where music was part of my emotional turnaround,” Sheik said. “Bringing music to patients on the mend is a great idea.”
Musicians on Call is a nonprofit program started 15 years ago in New York City. It is in its 10th year in the Philadelphia region where it is coordinated by WXPN, the member-supported public radio station at the University of Pennsylvania. WXPN recruits local musicians to perform for patients.
“Music’s ability to heal is real and powerful,” said Helen Leicht, WXPN midday host and spokesperson for WXPN’s Musicians on Call.
Since the WXPN program began it has touched more than 70,000 patients and their families. Wilmington Hospital is the seventh hospital to host Musicians on Call in the Philadelphia region.
Funds to support Musicians on Call locally have been donated by Light Up the Queen Foundation, a Delaware nonprofit that has promoted live music through the revival of the Queen Theater on Market Street. Other financial support comes from The Kenny Family Foundation, the charitable foundation run by the operators of the Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware.
“We’re grateful to have such wonderful partners,” Kurfuerst said.