The whole country was in shock last month when an exterminator who was called to a family residence in Jerusalem left a container of aluminum phosphide in the client’s apartment. When this toxic chemical mixes with water, it releases poisonous gas, which is allegedly what took the lives of the two youngest members of the family. Two older boys, aged 5 and 7, were in critical condition when they were transferred to the Schneider Children’s Medical Center. I am very happy to say that their hearts and lungs are now on the mend, sooner than the doctors expected. Those muscles are still weak, but gaining strength as they undergo physical therapy.

Harp vibrations can help in the healing process

Lightweight carbon fiber harp perfect for playing in hospitals

Music Therapy in the Hospital

One of those who may have played a role in their speedy recovery is Sunita Staneslow, a well-known harpist not only in Israel, but throughout the world. While we are very fortunate to have such a talented harpist in Israel, she has gone a step beyond entertaining typical audiences. Once a week she hauls her harp to Schneider Children’s Medical Center, where she plays as a therapeutic musician. The harp she takes is constructed from carbon fiber (rather than wood) so it can be sanitized and sterilized for hospital use. The hospital has five small and colorful harps that were donated by an organization in America. She starts out by playing with the young patients, teaching them about the red and blue strings so they can join her in duets and simple tunes while forgetting their illnesses for a short time. Unfortunately, not all children are able to get out of their beds to join the fun. When kids are in a coma, connected to medical devices or suffering from intense pain, Sunita plays her soothing music near their bedside. Sometimes she plays until a child falls asleep, and other times her music helps to calm the nerves of stressed out parents or medical staff.  She moves between the oncology wards, cardiology, surgical units and even intensive care. Her day at Schneider ends with music lessons in a secure unit that treats children with eating disorders.

Reducing Stress to Aid in Healing

Many studies show that the peaceful vibrations of the harp can reduce pain and anxiety in patients, which helps in the healing process. The medical staff also enjoys the calming benefits of the harp, which results in better patient care. Sunita, a classically trained harpist, became interested in using her harp as a tool in musical therapy after being involved in two studies at Meir Hospital, where she now plays for the preemies. She jokingly refers to herself as a “portable spa” as she goes from room to room transforming the atmosphere from one of beeps, clatter and typical hospital noise to one of peace.