Cecilia creates music and hope for kids in hospital

For over two decades, Cecilia Bellingham, one of two music therapists at HSC Children’s Hospital, has shared the healing power of music with thousands of children to help them cope while in hospital. The Music Therapy program shares two of Cecilia’s lifelong passions – creating music and helping children heal.

“The magic happens in the moment because of the music and the music therapist – there is no better substitute,” says Cecilia.

“The Music Therapy program continues to receive positive feedback from patients, families and staff and that is why it has thrived for 26 years.”

Music Therapy at HSC Children’s Hospital began in January 1998 with Cecilia as the only music therapist, visiting dozens of children and their families up to three days a week. Cecilia is a certified music therapist with the Canadian Association for Music Therapists and the Music Therapy Association of Manitoba. In 2017, the program expanded to include a second music therapist, which helped to increase the program’s operating hours, and reach even more families.

Kids can choose instruments from guitar to drums and play along to Cecilia’s singing and guitar strumming or just to listen and enjoy the music. At the bedside and inpatient units, Cecila supports children from birth to age 17 with a range of diagnoses from childhood cancer to mental health.

“Even though children are sick, stressed out, scared or fearful, and in hospital for treatment, we try to offer our services to help them relax and to provide the stimulation that all children need and deserve,” says Cecilia.

In addition to one-on-one sessions, music therapists may also have group sessions and song writing or instrument lessons depending on the child’s age and musical interests.

For some children, spending time with a music therapist could be the first time in a while they have had a chance to smile, laugh and play – just like any other child.

“I was so proud and honoured to be able to begin with my dream job,” says Cecilia “I felt very humbled to be able to work with patients and families and that they were open to having me come into their room.”

The positive feedback doesn’t just come from children and families but health care professionals as well. Cecilia once pre-recorded songs she sang to a child while they were staying at HSC Children’s to be played again and again. A nurse later noticed that the child’s heart rate lowered whenever they listened to the recordings.

Regardless of ability, illness, or background – Cecilia believes music creates a unique opportunity to better connect with children. Watching kids gaining confidence and courage to better face their health challenges through music continues to be a very rewarding experience for Cecilia.

“Human interaction and live music are what is prescribed for music therapy,” says Cecilia. “You cannot get that just by listening to a recording or watching a video.”

Cecilia says she’s always had a passion for music and the health care field. More than two decades into the Music Therapy program at HSC Children’s, Cecilia is just as dedicated to bringing the healing power of music to children in need of treatment and care as the first day she started.

“Music therapy, to me, is a beautiful gift that can be used to help soften the hospital experience,” says Cecilia. “I’m reminded every day of how precious life is, how to connect with people, and how resilient all children can be.”

March is Music Therapy month and celebrates music therapists like Cecilia that continue to make a difference in children’s lives every day. Donate to life-changing Child Life programming like Music Therapy at goodbear.ca.

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