James Danna enters the Boston Children’s Hospital Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) with the tools he’ll use to treat Joy, a 9-month-old patient recovering from open-heart surgery. Instead of a stethoscope or scalpel, James carries only small percussion instruments and a guitar.
He gently opens the door to Joy’s room, taking a quick read of her heart rate—138. Joy is a tiny little thing in a great big bed, under bright lights and tethered to multiple machines. Over the course of her multiple procedures for a congenital heart defect, the noise of the monitors, air conditioning and loudspeakers have made for a very wary baby. Her medical chart describes Joy as “staff phobic,” as most adults who enter her room poke and prick her.
But Joy has met James many times before and knows him to be safe. She locks her eyes on him and waits for the music to begin. Keeping his distance, James quietly hums a tune while strumming a few chords on his guitar. “The music I play for Joy is soft like silk, a sensory blanket to swaddle and soothe her.”
Joy smiles, crosses her little legs and nods to the beat.
By Casey Bolton
During a routine ultrasound I had in the 20th week of my pregnancy, I learned that my soon-to-be-born son, Parker, would be born with a complex congenital heart defect (CHD) called hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).
Because of the severity of Parker’s condition, our doctors recommended an induced birth in Boston so he could be immediately rushed to Children’s Hospital Boston’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU).
Parker’s first 24 hours of life were so unstable that doctors weren’t sure he’d make it. His condition was so severe that even as his parents we weren’t allowed to see him in the cardiac ICU until they could stabilize him with an emergency catheterization.