Life Cycle: Lifting spirits of kids like Ryu

Life Cycle: Lifting spirits of kids like Ryu

Ryu, which means “fighter” and “dragon strength” in Japanese, weighed just a pound when he came into the world by emergency C-section. With the help of world-class caregivers at the Alberta Children’s Hospital – and to a backdrop of Music Therapy – he’s more lived up to his name.

Seeing Ryu now, you wouldn’t know his life began with breathing machines and feeding tubes and experts monitoring him around the clock. It was a stressful time for his mom, Randall, who measured her baby’s small victories in grams and ounces.

It was during their five-month stay on the Edwards Family Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that Ryu and his parents discovered the healing power of music.

Music engages multiple parts of the brain, and at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the Stollery Children’s Hospital, certified music therapists use it to lift spirits, promote healing and bring joy to kids and families who are going through tough times. It’s just one of the many therapeutic arts made available to families through the Child Life program, which you support when you register and fundraise through Life Cycle.

Music Therapist Sarah VanPeteghen would visit Ryu and Randall on the NICU and fill their room with upbeat songs that would calm Ryu and comfort his mom.

“Ryu was introduced to music even while he was in belly,” says Randall. “I would play acoustic covers, mostly alternative, rock, pop or country music.”

Sarah would tap into that.

“Ryu was not a happy camper one day, and Sarah started playing a nice lullaby on her guitar, but Ryu kept crying,” recalls Randall. “Then she remembered what Ryu would listen to when he was in my belly and started playing a more upbeat tune and right away the crying stopped, he calmed right down and even turned his head towards the guitar and Sarah and gave her a big smile.”

Child Life also provided Randall a beautiful way to track Ryu’s progress: Beads of Courage. The glass beads come in all shapes and colours and can represent various procedures, from a needle poke to an MRI or chemotherapy treatment.

“As hard as it is to look back, and at times wanting to forget those heart-wrenching moments in the hospital, his Beads of Courage are a reminder of how far we have come – him especially, but us as parents,” says Randall.

“These beautiful glass beads symbolize every procedure, every poke, every hurdle, every tear, but also remind us of every accomplishment, every fight, every sigh of relief, and every hope. It may not be a medal or a trophy, but it’s a keepsake of the 147 days of his life – his fight for his life – that he will have and cherish forever.”

When you fundraise through Life Cycle, you support vital Child Life programs at both the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.

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