Shortly after his birth, the Maple Ridge boy was diagnosed with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, a life-threatening immune system disease where white blood cells attack other blood cells. Abnormal blood cells then build up in the spleen and liver, causing them to enlarge.
“When Henry was two weeks old, it was clear that he needed a liver transplant, a difficult feat for someone so small,” said Joanna Edwards, Henry’s mom. “Doctors prepared us for the worst, but we knew Henry’s determination and resiliency would see him through to health.”
Henry has since undergone steroid and chemotherapy treatments, and recently, completed a bone marrow transplant at BC Children’s Hospital. Throughout his endless bouts of treatments, Joanna said music therapist, Erin Delnea, has been a bright light in her son’s life.
“Music class with Erin is the highlight of our week. On a particularly rough day after many painful bloodwork attempts, Erin came in and started to play her guitar and sing. Henry instantly beamed - the trauma of the last two hours swept from his spirit,” said Joanna.
Music therapists at BC Children’s and Sunny Hill Centre for Children work with children of all ages - from infants to teens. The therapy sessions can range from improvisation and instrument playing to song writing and listening to music. Research has shown that music is effective in reducing anxiety and pain in children undergoing medical procedures.
“Music therapy can help with goals like relaxation, self-expression, and pain management,” said Erin, one of three music therapists at BC Children’s. “Getting to be a part of people’s journeys and provide comfort during the harder moments is very rewarding.”
Erin has worked as a music therapist at BC Children’s for nearly two decades. Together with her colleagues Carol Wiedemann and Brooke Angus, the team has supported hundreds of families at BC Children’s.
“Henry’s been in the hospital almost seven months, thus missing out on most “normal” baby activities like singalongs at the library,” said Joanna. “Erin’s engaging activities and ethereal singing have not only helped develop Henry’s vocal and motor skills, filling him with joy and self-confidence, but provided our family with a little taste of the outside world.”
Henry will soon get to experience the “outside world” himself as he’s scheduled to be discharged from BC Children’s at the end of March. While Henry won’t be in hospital anymore, Joanna says her family will always cherish the support they received here.
“We are overwhelmingly grateful for the impact music therapy has had on our lives.”
Mar 11 – 15 is music therapy week at BC Children’s, a time to celebrate the important and valuable work done by music therapists across Canada. Music therapists at BC Children's and Sunny Hill are accredited and have successfully completed a bachelor program or graduate certificate in music therapy, in addition to a 1,000-hour supervised clinical internship.
The music therapy program at BC Children’s began nearly 20 years ago. The program is primarily funded by donors. If you’d like to contribute, please visit the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation website.