Photo courtesy of Amber DeFord (Elise's mother)
Our music therapy and palliative care teams often work closely to create a positive experience for our patients and their families, knowing children need more than medicine to feel better. When one of our patients, Elise, came to our hospital for care, she expressed deep interest in using every aspect of care provided at Texas Children’s to keep her mentally strong, reduce her pain perception and help her relax. When she learned about our music therapy and palliative care teams, she found great joy and respite in the many services we offered.
One day, as palliative care was exiting her room and music therapy was entering, Elise said, “You guys should work together and record something I can take home with me when I leave.” After receiving her first guided imagery recordings with the voice of her palliative social worker and music from her music therapist focused on her favorite place – the Colorado mountains – Elise enjoyed it so much that she shared how this tool could benefit other patients as well. Recognizing her physical and emotional well-being were greatly enhanced with the help of music therapy, guided imagery and deep breathing, Elise challenged the teams to find innovative ways to make these resources accessible to other children so they can practice these forms of well-being beyond the hospital walls.
With Elise’s inspiration, we created Elise’s Legacy Library (ELL), a free online tool for all ages to access via Texas Children’s YouTube channel. ELL provides seven different playlists – in English and Spanish – that target various areas of mindfulness practice which include guided imagery, music assisted relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation and sleep. Patients and families can go in and build their own personal digital respite for relaxation while physicians and staff can refer their patients to this digital resource. Built with careful intention, ELL has scripts for all ages with different time allotments. For example, it’s easy to find a two-minute deep breathing exercise or 20-minute vibroacoustic and guided imagery exercise. Even better, the ELL team is working hard to create multi-lingual scripts making this a powerful tool for those whose primary language is not English.
So much work, creative thought and collaboration went into bringing this project to fruition. We worked with Amber, Elise’s mother, during every stage of development to ensure the content, images and marketing would honor Elise’s legacy and her wish to deliver a range of music, meditation and guided imagery to children. To create the library, our Texas Children’s providers across different services and specialties were invited to record sessions on each of the seven playlists in our recording studio. Then, Elise’s art therapist created images inspired by Elise’s original art work to accompany each audio recording and provide a foundation for all ELL content on YouTube, resulting in an easy-to-use online library that offers the ability for children and families to relax and feel grounded in times of high stress.
We are so happy our patients and their families are benefitting from these online resources. Additionally, we’re grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with so many amazing people at Texas Children’s – like our palliative care, social work, creative and therapeutic arts, and marketing and philanthropy teams – for making this all possible. I think Elise would be so proud of what we accomplished in her memory. It was music therapy and palliative care that helped provide comfort and peace during her hospitalization at Texas Children’s including her final days in the pediatric intensive care unit. Her legacy to help others will live on.