Using dying heartbeats to make music

Jul 9, 2014

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center emphasizes it's not for everyone, but a few families are taking advantage of a new way to remember their critically ill children.

Music therapist Brian Schreck  records the child's heartbeat and uses it as a metronome or drumbeat while he mixes it with songs that are important to the patient or the family.

Schreck says, " What I really do like about it is, it can engage the whole family in this experience whether it's talking about which songs are important to them, us going through them there in the room, me playing with them in the room and then physically putting the stethoscope on their loved ones chest."

Fourteen-year-old Dylan Bennett was in the intensive care unit for a short time. He died February 28, 2014. Jeremy Bennett, his father, who is a musician himself, carries around the song produced at Children's on his phone.  "I can listen to his heartbeat whenever I choose to." He says the music helps in the grieving process.

Bennett says people react to music in all kinds of different ways and acknowledges this kind of therapy is a little different. "The thought that it would make somebody say, wow, that's kind of weird, that's an emotion. If we can evoke emotion out of music, whatever that may be, I think that's where it's at."

Schreck doesn't offer the heartbeat music idea to everyone. He says every patient and family has individual needs.