Health: Stroke Recovery Through Music

AdventHealth and STROKESTRA® gives stroke patients a sense of hope and healing through music.

Giving stroke patients a sense of hope and healing through music.

Music heals the soul, as the saying goes.

Those aren’t empty words or platitudes. It is recognized as a form of therapy.

All the proof one needs is to peek inside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and admire the beauty of teamwork.

A handful of stroke survivors and caregivers gathered over the course of two days recently, joining three members of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a workshop leader to create a unique musical experience in conjunction with AdventHealth’s Rehab and Musical Therapy teams.

The program, called STROKESTRA®, involved a one-day workshop culminating with a performance on the second day at Steinmetz Hall. In all, there were about 20 people on stage creating the musical experience.

“I can’t believe how much fun that was to be synchronizing with myself, with my mind,” said Robert Nicolau, one of the participants, who played bongos and drums. “It was amazing.”

His words echo with everyone who had a role in the production, from participants, spectators, therapists, and caregivers.

The point and purpose weren’t to try to create a musical masterpiece. But it very much was a vehicle for hope and inspiration. Studies show that there is a strong link between stroke and depression, and that one in three people experience depression after a stroke. Caregivers and family members also get snared into that funk.

“The first thing they think about is, ‘I’m not going to be relevant because I’m damaged. I’m not going to be able to recover,’” explained Dr. Indrani Acosta, a vascular neurology specialist and medical director for stroke at AdventHealth.

“One of the things that STROKESTRA® brings is that [patients] can feel empowered. They matter. They feel they can make a difference,” said Dr. Acosta.
Nicolau, 68, is living proof. He suffered a stroke in 2015 and lost his ability to speak for a few months. With the program, he was able to communicate through the power of music.

“I enjoyed seeing people and what they were doing-some of them were crying, some of them were laughing like forever,” he said. “It was fun watching them. It was!”


Mission accomplished

“Their experience brought tears of laughter and signs of hope, all filled with inspiration,” said Kathy Ramsberger, president and CEO of the Dr. Phillips Center.
“This opportunity aligned perfectly with our vision of Arts For Every Life® and our objective to create partnerships that inspire a meaningful difference in everyone’s life.”

The program reflects the mission of the leadership team at the Dr. Phillips Center and its partners. In the spring of 2019, AdventHealth and the Dr. Phillips Center launched a groundbreaking research study to explore how the arts can benefit caregivers and care recipients with memory loss, specifically dementia diseases.
There are no definitive plans to continue the STROKESTRA® program, given the logistical challenges of working with an orchestra across the pond, but regardless, the two-day experience will have a lasting effect on all involved.

“It gave me a sense of true hope,” Dr. Acosta said. “It elevated me. It helps you think that there is more goodness to come.”

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