Music to a young patient’s ears (and hand)

Bellingham | December 11, 2018
Hospital harpist eases the pain of a hospital stay by letting a child try his hand at the harp

Strum, strum – the melodic strains wafted through the hospital as the expert fingers of harpist J. Duncan Saunders effortlessly moved up and down the strings of his harp.

His music also played on the heart strings of a young boy listening to the harp’s soothing sounds from his hospital bed at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington.

“There is someone playing the harp!” a woman’s voice emanated from the room directly across from where Saunders was harping.  He looked up, rewarded by a big smile from the woman. Though the hospital bed near her was seemingly empty, in half a second, a young boy of about seven sat up in the bed, intently watching the deft musician play.

Saunders finished his music set, stood up and waved to the lad who waved back with a healthy hand. His other small hand lay bandaged with tubes weaving in and out of it.

Deciding a visit was in order, Saunders sanitized his hands before entering the young patient’s room and introduced himself.

When asked if he liked music, the bright-eyed lad said, “Yes,” a large smile, complete with a couple of missing teeth, appeared on his eager young face. Saunders then asked the boy if he’d like to try out the harp. With wide eyes, the youth responded with a second resounding, “Yes!”

Saunders positioned the harp beside the bed so the boy could use his good hand to touch the strings while his smiling mom prepared to capture the moment on her smart phone. The harpist showed the boy how to draw a finger up and down the strings of the harp, then he let the boy try.

Without hesitation, the lad reached out his little fingers, softly going up and down the 31 strings of the harp; his young ear intently tuned to the music he heard. Saunders suggested his newfound friend play with a bit more force. He did and was rewarded with resounding deeper notes from the magical harp. Proudly, the young man looked at Saunders declaring, “I can play the harp!” and Saunders gave him the affirming response, “Yes, you can!”

Saunders asked if the budding musician might play the harp for the other patients while he ran some errands. The boy gave a heartwarming smile as his mother laughed and the nearby nurse chuckled. Saunders thanked the boy for trying out his harp before heading out to run errands.

Those few moments created a melodious place, where music, love and laughter surrounded and blessed both patients and caregivers alike.

It was a perfect note in time that eased a young patient’s pain and created some delight during his hospital stay with a bit of music.