Friday, January 15, 2010

Music in the Operating Room

During the adjustable suture part of my surgery I remember being in a round operating room with someone named "Nelson," who the surgeon would instruct to give me more meds every time I groaned with discomfort, which he did beautifully. I can recall almost every detail of being awake while he pulled at the fishing wire like material coming out of my eyes.

One of the things I remember clearly was the music. There was a radio in the operating room and as the surgeon tugged and knotted the wire Kings of Leon's, Use Somebody was playing in the background. The sound was coming from an area around my feet about 10 feet away closer to my right foot from a boom box on a shelf. (Funny how I remember things like this!) Despite being horrendously overplayed on the radio, I really love this song and despite the circumstances I was under it actually put me in a good mood. For a moment I felt giddy lying there.

Weeks after my surgery, I was running on the treadmill listening to this same song and never having listened that closely to the words, I stunned when I heard the first line, "I've been roaming around always lookin' down at all I see..." Here I was having had Strabismus surgery to correct my eyes and one of them was actually looking straight down! The song made me sob and had to push pause on the treadmill to catch my breath. My friend Nicole, running next to me was like, "Oh my GOD are you alright?" The memories of hearing that song again and what the words said made me incredibly emotional. I thought about the success of the surgery, how lucky I was to have it go well and it being over and how I am no longer, "lookin' down at all I see..."

Then a few days ago I heard this on NPR's Sound Check with John Schaefer, Soundtracking Surgery. The brilliant segment talked about studies that have shown music helps surgeon perform better, improving speed and accuracy. Here is also a link to an article about the same thing in NY Times. Also check out John Schaefer's blog entry, Music and Medicine, A Toxic Mix?

People were calling in to say what music they heard while undergoing surgery, how music is healing and calming-especially the harp and the violin. (I am afraid harp music would have made me feel like I had arrived in heaven, and violin probably would have irritated me.) but they said that if the music is familiar and not necessarily calming, it can also have a healing effect, even if it's Metallica. One woman who called in told of having to endure a horrible song playing as she was having a delivery with complications and it pissed her off. She didn't say anything, but years later still wished she had. I am so glad that I actually had a song that I liked.

The NPR segment then said that perhaps hospitals should ask people what they would like to have playing while they are being worked on. I started to think about this. What if the songs I picked put my surgeon in a bad mood and he didn't perform as well doing the operation? My healing Jazz might be his worst nightmare. I think in my case it worked out well, as I do remember the surgeon kind of rocking out while the song was playing (all this while holding metal instruments over my eyes, gotta love a young hip surgeon!) I think we landed on a song with both liked and it helped us both be at our best.

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