Fighting Sickle Cell Disease with Musical BEATS Program at University Hospitals

Sam Rodgers-Melnick working with patients [photo courtesy: University Hospitals]
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Sickle cell disease is an affliction of the red blood cells often diagnosed early in childhood.

While the disease was once more deadly, today with medications and frequent doctor visits those who inherit the malady can manage it and live longer lives.

However the transition period between childhood and adulthood can be a challenge for patients to be diligent in managing the disease.

"You don't have the teddy bear shaped chairs, and when they draw your blood there are no longer fish going by.  It's tough," said University Hospital hematologist Dr. Jane Little.

In an effort to help patients make that transition UH created the BEATS music therapy program, which is free to patients.

"Music therapy can do a lot of different things for patients.  In the hospital we're often consulted to help with pain, anxiety, helping with coping.  This program really focuses on the ability of music to carry a message," said UH music therapist Samuel Rodgers-Melnick.

That message comes in the form of songs written by Rodgers-Melnick after he consults with Dr. Little about what the patients need to remember in terms of things like medication doses and trips to the clinic.

Writing the songs can be tricky when you have to incorporate medical terms.

"You figure out that hemoglobin rhymes with O2 loadin'.  You figure out transfusion rhymes with confusion," said Rodgers-Melnick.

Listen to this song as an example:

To learn more about blood diseases like sickle cell check out ideastream’s special About Blood: Sickle Cell Anemia.

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