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A show of hands: Art and music therapy project unites young patients

With face-to-face interactions limited, patients and staff at Penn State Children’s Hospital used their hands to come together without even touching.

“We were looking for different ways to reach a broad range of patients, as our group sessions aren’t an option, and it’s important to continue to find ways to feel we’re together,” said Devon Springer, a board-certified music therapist.

Using Child Life’s GetWell closed-circuit television network, Springer and Alexis Lombardo, a registered and board-certified art therapist, created “Let’s Get Together,” a program that was livestreamed to patients’ rooms.

Strumming her guitar to the tune of “I’ll Be There for You,” from the TV show “Friends,” Springer invited children to use their in-room telephones to call in their ideas for improvised lyrics. The new opening lines became, “Well, no one knew today was gonna be this way. Here in the hospital, with some loved ones far away!”

The refrain went like this:

I’ll be there for you, through a picture I draw

I’ll be there for you, keeping memories to share

I’ll be there for you, and I know you’re there for me too!

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Therapy services bring people together

Child Life Specialist Erin Shaffer read a children’s book about being connected when physically separated, titled “The Invisible String” during the program.

Drawings of many hands overlap each other to create the shape of a heart. Some hands look like animals and others have messages on them, like “Every little thing is going to be alright” and “Together we will rock this.”

Digital images of hands made by Penn State Children’s Hospital patients and staff create this artwork titled “Together.”

Meanwhile, using art supplies dropped off to their rooms, the children traced their hands and decorated them in an array of colors and messages. Since the papers couldn’t be collected due to COVID-related precautions, Lombardo took digital images of each hand and compiled them into a heart-shaped picture. Staff contributed, too, for a total of 45 hands joined together.

“It’s a visual representation of us all separate but all in this together at the Children’s Hospital,” Lombardo said.

The team plans to present a new program once a week or so to keep the connection going. Child Life is also using the GetWell network for story time and games like BINGO and Pictionary to reach more patients who are isolated in their rooms.

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