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From pediatric to adult care: Music therapy helps bridge the gap

IU Health University Hospital

From pediatric to adult care: Music therapy helps bridge the gap

One patient finds peace in her healing through music.

By TJ Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist,

On a recent weekday there was a little reunion of sorts in a room at IU Health University Hospital. There were hugs, squeals of joy, and lots of questions and catching up.

Alyssa Bridgewater first became a patient of IU Health when she was admitted to Riley Hospital in January 2020. She was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer of the blood marrow.

That initial hospitalization lasted for 300 days. To help pass the time and calm her anxiety, Bridgewater took part in music therapy. Riley Hospital and University Hospital music therapists are part of a clinical team that helps patients accomplish individual goals, such as reducing stress, and improving overall mood and well-being. Music therapy is often used during other therapies such as physical, occupational, yoga, and art.

Through initial treatment and a stem cell transplant, Bridgewater looked forward to spending time with Riley Hospital music therapist, Caitlin Krater.

“Music therapy lifted my soul and helped distract me from pain. Caitlin helped give me an outlet, something to live for and fight for so I wouldn’t give up on life,” said Bridgewater, 30. Music has been a focus throughout her life - something familiar. She once sang “Ava Maria” at a wedding, was a church cantor, and performed, Sally DeFord’s “Shards of Glass” for her high school senior project.

While she was hospitalized at Riley, Bridgewater’s grandmother died of complications of cancer.

“I knew I couldn’t go to the funeral and I was so sad. Caitlin helped me make a music video. I told her we needed to do it in two days and we did it in two days,” said Bridgewater. Her grandmother was able to see the video before she died and it was later played at her funeral.

“It gave me a sense of peace to know my voice was heard,” said Bridgewater. She grew up in Atlanta, Ind., was homeschooled and received a Bachelor’s degree in educational studies.

As she recently reunited with Krater, the two talked quickly asking: “What have you been up to?” “How are you feeling?”

Bridgewater has been up to a lot. She wrote a book, “Grandpa’s Answered Prayer” about a child who was hesitant to go to school and her grandfather prayed for her. She is cautious about her compromised immune system and stays involved with support groups virtually. She enjoys arts and crafts, making homemade cards, taking walks and of course, music. She was gifted a ukulele when she left Riley and has fine-tuned her talent.

During her stay at IU Health University Hospital, music therapist Adam Perry, invited Krater to walk across campus and join him for music therapy with Bridgewater. There was an energy in the room that trickled into the hallway as Bridgewater played ukulele and sang along in an impromptu jam session. Perry played guitar and Krater joined on drums.

“This a beautiful, happy day,” said Bridgewater. “I’m so thankful, just so thankful.”