La Crosse, Wisconsin (WXOW) ---- The practice of using music to heal started during WWI. Nurses used music at Veterans Hospitals to help comfort patients with traumatic war injuries.
Today it's used to both help with the healing of serious illness and to provide a simple distraction. At Gundersen Lutheran Health System music therapists use it in many ways including giving young patients a reason to look forward to coming to the doctor.
Dr. Scott Polito is a music therapist. "When they come into this environment they can have a lot of anxiety." 7-year-old Obi is one of those kids. He's pretty shy except when he's playing music. "I never know what he's thinking so we'll do a drill where he expresses anger, happiness."
Obi comes to Gundersen every week for cancer treatment where he sees the doctor and his Music Therapist, Dr. Scott Polito. "Sometimes I'll in a song writing activity - that gives them the chance to express themselves. Sometimes I'll do a fill in the blanks. They can rewrite their own lyrics to it."
Although most of the time it's just a good old fashion jam session that does the trick, except when it comes to working with patients on hospice. "I don't want to dissociate myself with it too much but sometimes I just have to think about something else for that moment because if the family sees me falling apart it's not really beneficial so if I need to I'll just think of something else.
Kiera is another one of Dr. Polito's patients. Her mom, Candace says cancer is hard enough to understand at such a young age and having Autism doesn't help but the music does. "I'll say let's get our mind off of everything else today and let's focus on the music and think about what we're gonna sing today. "
Dr. Polito says even though he is the one playing the music he is just an instrument in the healing process.
If you are interested in learning more call 608- 782 - 7300 and ask for the music therapy department.