Make your home page

Music therapy helps patients one note at a time

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Being in the hospital is no fun. Now, a type of therapy at IU Health is helping patients cope with illnesses and treatments one note at a time.

As patients and visitors walk down the hallways of the Simon Cancer Center, or even University Hospital, it’s not uncommon to hear a guitar, some singing and even laughter. It’s not a record player. It’s likely Tony Madeiros.

Madeiros is a professional rock-star-turned-therapist. He’s one of four music therapists in the IU Health Network. Three music therapists work at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. Madeiros is the first for the Simon Cancer Center and other adult wings like University Hospital.

“He’s kind of been, not only my music therapist, but he’s almost kind of become part of my family,” said 25-year-old Kayla Wyatt.

Wyatt met Madeiros back in 2013. That’s when he began his music therapy internship at IU Health. She was one of his first patients.

“You approach the level of friendship when they’re here and you get to know the family and all their backgrounds,” said Madeiros.

Wyatt was once again on a 10-day stint in the hospital. She suffers from multiple health problems including chronic pancreatitis. She had her pancreas taken out when she was 17 and doctors told her the odds were against her to see her 20th birthday.

“They just kind of call it, I guess, when you say what am I in the hospital for, we just say ‘Kayla-itis’,” said Wyatt.

Grateful to have lived well past that supposed expiration date, the hospitalizations continue to take their toll. Wyatt began as a Riley kid. A place where there are toys, entertainment and fun distractions. She says when she turned 18 and moved over to the adult side of things it was depressing.

At that point she remembers monochromatic walls, game shows and the smell of coffee, which she loathes. Still, Wyatt’s positivity is inspirational. But, she admits she has her hard days. She says music therapy plays a big role in keeping her spirits lifted.

“It can be encouraging. It can help me get my feelings out. That maybe I can’t express in other ways,” said Wyatt.

Madeiros also uses the music for physical therapy. He plays beats to provide a rhythm for patients’ movements. He’s even played family favorites during end of life ceremonies at the Simon Cancer Center.

“That’s way more powerful than anything I have done in the previous 20 years,” said Madeiros.

For Wyatt, it’s an escape outside her white walls to the big stage where she says her heart belongs.

As of Monday, April 6, Madeiros finished his internship, completed orientation and became a full-time IU Health Music Therapist. It’s a program that is grant and donor funded.

If you’d like to make a donation, visit the IU Health website and make a monetary donation to the IU Health Simon Cancer Center Office of Philanthropy.