Sooth­ing sounds

Stephens’ har­mon­ica pro­vides heal­ing mu­sic to dial­y­sis pa­tients

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Giving back -

Dial­y­sis is a lot less trau­matic for many pa­tients th­ese days thanks to the sooth­ing har­mon­ica tunes pro­vided by John Stephens. Stephens, who be­gan play­ing at age 12, is a dial­y­sis nurse for Davita, which serves both National Park Med­i­cal Cen­ter and Mercy Hos­pi­tal Hot Springs.

“I al­ways keep one with me, and I took one out years ago in the room with the pa­tients as they were re­ceiv­ing their treat­ment and started play­ing. The physi­cians and nurses didn’t mind, and it pro­vided a calmer en­vi­ron­ment for the pa­tients and took away a lot of their stress,” Stephens said.

Stephens de­vel­oped a fol­low­ing among the pa­tients, and soon he be­gan re­ceiv­ing re­quests as dial­y­sis ses­sions were tak­ing place.

“It re­ally seems to help the first-time dial­y­sis pa­tients who are just en­ter­ing the treat­ment. For those who have been in there a while, they look for­ward to my soft mu­sic to re­lax them. In some in­stances, the pa- tients will even fall asleep as I play. There is so much un­com­fort­able stim­uli in ICU, and if you have me play­ing, it pro­vides a calm­ing in­flu­ence,” he said.

Stephens owns 36 har­mon­i­cas and is never with­out one in his pocket. He also plays with his praise team at Cedar Creek Church on High­way 5 and also wor­ships with those who are in Teen Chal­lenge, spread­ing his mu­si­cal in­flu­ence to more than just his pa­tients.

“I re­mem­ber one pa­tient who drove a SCAT bus who was in a bad wreck. He woke up in ICU, and I was play­ing ‘Amaz­ing Grace’ at his bed­side. He lit­er­ally thought he was in heaven,” Stephens said, re­call­ing the hu­mor­ous tone he placed in the mid­dle of a crit­i­cal in­jury sit­u­a­tion.

“Amaz­ing Grace” is one of his most-re­quested tunes, along with “Over the Rain­bow.” Stephens plays mostly gospel tunes, but he also does some “jumpy” tunes when ap­pro­pri­ate.

“In some cases, the nurses are danc­ing down the hall, putting an up­lift­ing beat into an at­mos­phere that is usu­ally filled with ten­sion and fear from the pa­tients,” he says.

In other in­stances, “I have been at pa­tients’ bed­sides dur­ing treat­ment, play­ing a tune for them. I can see their ten­sion level drop right be­fore my eyes. Their foot is tap­ping in the bed and they grad­u­ally doze off. When they see me the next time, most pa­tients ask, ‘Did you bring your har­mon­ica?’” Stephens has a strong Chris­tian faith, and his har­mon­ica mu­sic of­ten opens the door among the pa­tients for di­rect con­ver­sa­tion.

“I try not to get too in­volved with it un­less the pa­tient brings it up. That hap­pens a lot of times when I’m play­ing gospel tunes, and it of­ten leads me to pray with them. I have a strong com­pas­sion for my fel­low man. You have to have that to do the job I do, and my har­mon­ica is one of my treat­ment in­stru­ments,” Stephens said.

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