Helping to heal with harmony in Glenwood |

Helping to heal with harmony in Glenwood

Stina Sieg
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Stina Sieg Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” The first time Elise Helmke brought her harp to Valley View Hospital, she didn’t know what she was jumping into. She ended up in a nursery, sitting in front of a premature baby whose heart rate was around 200. As Helmke started to play a soothing song, she watched the tiny thing’s pulse drop by 50 points.

“I was hooked,” she said. “That was just the moment for me.”

Those are the kind of stories that deserve a celebration.

And, next week, they’re getting one.

On Thursday evening, the hospital will host a fundraising gala of food, drink and music from more than 20 Holistic Harmony musicians. Now in its third year, the Holistic Harmony program brings singers and instrumentalists into the hospital’s lobby and patients’ rooms year round. This isn’t so much music therapy as it is a kindness, something to just make people feel good.

“It’s like the most rewarding thing I can do, because the people are so appreciative and receptive,” said Helmke, sitting next to her massive harp.

She was in the lobby and waiting to make her rounds, visit patients. She was smiling calmly, getting kind of excited as she talked about her three years at Holistic. She explained that she’s here to give people a bit of happiness, distraction, a bit of dignity. And she looked completely affected by that responsibility.

“This whole program is just inherently heart warming,” she said.

Soon, Holistic founder and acute rehab nurse (and musician in her own right), Lesa Russo, walked into the space. She had that same happy, soothing presence about her. There’s something about hearing music, she explained, that makes patients feel safe ” regardless of their situation. Every time she walks into someone’s room, she’s going into a whole new reality. So often, she imagines keeping a record of these little encounters, but she doesn’t go through with it.

“Something tells me not to write them down. It’s just a gift,” she said. “It’s so rich.”

In not much time, the women were off, walking through the halls. Helmke carried her bulky piece, while Russo helped with the stool. Each time they entered into a room, Russo would announce them gently and make sure the patient was up for music. When they said yes, Helmke would pull her harp up close and let out a few light, ethereal tunes. Patently, the patients would smile and clap and have this look of real appreciation on their faces.

Edward Doak, 86, called Helmke a “beautiful young lady” and seemed touched when she told him to have “sweet dreams.” Another fellow, in middle age, called her music “heavenly.”

These scenes were sweet and fascinating at once.

When the pair went into John Anderson’s room, the 64-year-old looked elated. When Helmke asked him if he wanted to try his hand at the harp, he didn’t hesitate. He stroked its strings and explored their scales and beamed as he did so.

“I’m getting used to being entertained,” he said.

Of course the women were smiling, too. Those are the kind of words they love to hear.

Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111

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