Amazing things can happen when community members work together to make good things happen.
Ian Hepburn, a vibroacoustic harp therapist at Vitality Health Team, recently had a bit of a dilemma on his hands. In addition to offering therapy at Vitality Health Team, Hepburn has also been offering vibroacoustic harp therapy treatments to patients at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital for quite some time.
He said many of the patients he works with are in palliative care and many have mobility issues.
"At the hospital, I essentially use a retrofitted massage therapy table when I do my sessions," Hepburn explained. "It's been retrofitted with speakers to receive the vibrations from the harp. This set-up is fine as long as the patient can manage to get in and out of bed and onto the table. Unfortunately, it's not always so easy for some patients."
Hepburn said some patients require assistance from hospital staff to get on and off the table and that can make things hard on the patient. Hepburn realized he needed to come up with a unit that would facilitate the offering of vibroacoustic harp therapy treatment to patients in their own beds.
"I wanted a unit that could be slipped under the patient's back/pillow, something that could be easily used in the patient's own bed," Hepburn said. "I started looking around and I could not find anything."
That's when Hepburn decided to approach well-known musician and local businessman Bobby Lalonde.
"We came up with a design for a system that would operate in the same way a soundboard operates," Hepburn explained. "It takes the vibration from the strings of the instrument, passes through the unit and delivers the vibration to the patient."
Hepburn said the unit also had to be made out of material that would be easy to clean and disinfect, especially since he often works with patients who are in isolation at the hospital.
Lalonde scouted out some manufacturer and not long after finding one, the unit Hepburn had been dreaming of became a reality.
"It's absolutely perfect," Hepburn remarked. "It's made of wood and varnish is easy to clean and hypoallergenic. It's light and easy for me to manage, which was also an important factor because I didn't want to need help carrying it around."
Hepburn has been using the new portable system on patients and says it really is a dream come true.
"I love it and am so grateful to Bobby for all of his help," he commented. "This wouldn't have been possible without his assistance and insight. The unit makes offering the therapy so much easier. It's easier for me, the patients and hospital staff."
Hepburn said the unit "feels like it's tailor-made" for the patients he treats and there's a possibility it may be beneficial for patients in wheelchairs.
"It wasn't designed for that purpose, but in some instances, it works really well for patients in a wheelchair," he said.
It's funny how things work
Hepburn noted the unit cost about $1,200 to create and he was trying to figure out how to pay for it.
"I was a bit stressed because I knew I had to come up with a way to pay for the unit," Hepburn admitted.
Then, out of the blue, Hepburn received a call from the local Rotary Club asking if he would like to help organize a benefit concert being put on by renowned Italian pianist and Rotary International member Francesco Attesti in Vankleek Hill.
"I was asked if I'd be interested in organizing the concert and if I could suggest someone who could benefit from the money raised," Hepburn said. "Of course, I said I had the ideal project in mind! Within five minutes the answer to my dilemma was on my doorstep. It's really funny and amazing how things work sometimes."
The benefits of good vibrations
According to www.harptherapy.com, created by Sarajane Williams (whom Hepburn referred to as "the mother of vibroacoustic harp therapy"), the treatment "works by vibrating and resonating with the tissues of the body, thereby affecting physiological processes.
It also affects the mental, emotional and energetic or spiritual aspects of the individual. The harp's wide range of frequencies and overtones are capable of vibrating the dense, physical body as well as its energetic counterpart, providing multi-level stimulation and harmonization."
"You can hear and feel the vibrations," Hepburn explained. "It centers on the active frequencies in the part of the body that is in turmoil and help put that part of the body back in balance."
While there is information out there that claims vibroacoustic harp therapy can alleviate and even cure a variety of ailments, Hepburn said he is careful not to say it is a definite cure.
"I would love for a university student to do a paper on vibroacoustic harp therapy and gather a bunch of data," he stated. "Then we could see exactly how it works to make people better. I mean, we understand how it works, but maybe not why it works. It's just something that would be really interesting. To have that data would be really something because then maybe treatments like this would be taken a bit more seriously."
For example, Herpburn told a story of a patient he was treating at the Hawkesbury hospital. She was a cancer patient in palliative care who was receiving regular vibroacoustic harp therapy treatment.
"On one visit, she told me to meet her on the physio room the following week," Hepburn said. "She told me she was going to get herself into her wheelchair and meet me in the room herself."
Sure enough, the patient did exactly that. Hepburn was stunned, but he knew the woman was a determine soul. The next time he arrived for treatment, the woman apologized for not meeting him in the physio room. She said she was "tired out" from walking the entire north wing of the hospital with her walker.
"This woman hadn't walked in I don't know how long," Hepburn exclaimed. "But she had the will and determination and she did it."
During a conversation one day, Hepburn asked the woman what the worst part of being in the hospital was. Expecting her to say boredom, he was shocked when she said she wasn't crazy about the food.
"She told me she was craving a big milkshake, so I promised to bring her one the next time I came for treatment," Hepburn recalled.
Hepburn arrived at their next vibroacoustic harp therapy session, milkshake in hand, only to find the woman's room empty. He started asking where she was and was stunned to learn she had been sent home and was in remission.
"I was absolutely amazed and so were her doctors," he stated. "I cannot tell you that vibroacoustic harp therapy cure her of cancer. I just can't say that, because I don't know. What I can say is it likely helped her get better. That, along with her strength, determination and courage. It certainly didn't hurt."
Hepburn also worked closely with Rory MacLeod, a young man from the Laggan area who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and had been confined to a wheelchair.
He travelled to Mexico to receive highly controversial "liberation" treatment for the disease, which worked wonders for him.
Intent on walking again, McLeod agreed to begin receiving vibroacoustic harpy therapy treatments from Hepburn. He began noticing changes in his demeanour almost right away and was able to sleep through the night.
Hepburn, who asks patients to rate their pain levels before each session, remembers MacLeod initially rating his pain at "five" and "six." By the time the pair had finished working together - nine sessions later - MacLeod said that pain was down to "one."
"This is another case where I can't say that vibroacoustic harp therapy cure Rory, but it certainly didn't hurt," Hepburn said. "His doctors are astounded and can't find any reason for how well he's doing. I'm happy I got to play a part in it and I like to think it did help in some way, though I can't say exactly how."