TEXARKANA, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – Some cardiac and pulmonary patients at a Texarkana hospital are trading treadmills for a different form of exercise to strengthen their lungs.
A unique therapy program at Christus St. Michael Health System is using music to help breathe new life into some rehab patients.
“I was not a natural, but I felt so much better,” said Luradell Clark.
Clark has been playing with the Christus Harmonics group since it started about ten years ago.
“You don’t have to know anything about music or any of it,” said Clark. “Just know the songs so that when you blow the right hole, you’re staying with the tune.”
Her oxygen tank doesn’t stop her from carrying a tune.
“What I like the best about it is when I’m feeling bad, I grab the harmonica, play some music, and it doesn’t matter what kind,” said Clark. “I can jump up and do what I need to do.”
The harmonica is the only instrument that provides resistance both while inhaling and exhaling, giving people with COPD and chronic lung illness a fun way to work on their rehabilitation.
“It exercises their diaphragm as well as holds the oxygen in there longer, so it enhances their breathing while they’re playing,” said Christus St. Michael Cardiac/Pulmonary Rehabilitation Supervisor Carol Blair.
The oxygen levels of these musicians are tested before and after their hour-long rehearsls. Blair said oxygen is increased 90 percent of the time.
“We also ask them how short of breath they are,” said Blair. “Some people come in short of breath and they leave not short of breath.”
Blair said performing with peers not only helps patients’ physical health, but mental health as well.
“It gives them a positive attitude about life,” said Blair.
“I love music, I wasn’t gonna give up,” said Clark. “I still won’t give up.”
The harmonica program is free for anyone to join, including non-patients. The group practices 10 a.m. Thursdays at the Christus St. Michael Rehabilitation Hospital in Texarkana.
The group performs gigs around town at nursing homes and senior centers.
For more information, call (903) 614-4262.