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Music therapy origins

Updated: Dec 8, 2019

My name is Loraine Lovejoy-Evans and I am a doctor of physical therapy. I am writing this blog to help people learn how to manage their own symptoms with some simple exercises. My family was quite musical. From a very young age I was in music. I sang from a young age through college, played piano beginning in second grade, played violin or viola from fourth grade through tenth grade, and I learned guitar in high school. While taking music theory in high school my teacher encouraged me to consider going to college to major in Music Therapy. Not only did I get a degree, but I became a Board-Certified Registered Music Therapist. My origin for music therapy started in my teens.

I fractured my tibia, the big bone in the front of the lower leg, when I was 13. I was riding on an inner tube being pulled behind a snowmobile in the pitch black while at a Mormon church youth group weekend retreat in Grandby Lake, CO. I fell off of the inner tube without anyone noticing. The next kid who took a turn was the son of the snowmobile driver, so he opened it wide up which caused his son to fly off the track where I was walking and his head hit my knee.

They took me on a toboggan to the car and then to a local doctor. I recall them wanting to cut my pants off. I thought my mother would kill me if they cut my new jeans so I stood up and took them off. After examination and my guess would be x-rays, the doctor said that it was a sprain and I should walk on the leg. The adults would not let me go home with the elders who were driving back down to Englewood, CO, near Denver because they did not want it to ruin my weekend.

The pain was so bad I spent the weekend on the couch and begged for help making it to the bathroom each time. I recall singing "He's got a ticket to ride" by the Carpenters as well as "He ain't heavy he's my brother" by the Hollies each time I tried walking. After the weekend was over the adults took all of us home. I was thrilled to get to the crutches that were stored in the garage of my house.

We had no insurance and since I had already seen a doctor, my mom did not take me to a doctor right away. Several days later, I was having such intense pain when I lifted my leg off the pillow that she took me in to see a doctor. An x-ray showed that there was a large chunk missing from the top of the tibia. Indeed I did have a fracture and now I had developed thrombophlebitis or blood clots in the leg.

The doctor told my mother that I may lose my leg. He wanted her to take me to the hospital to meet him at the end of his day. I remember my mother took me through a drive-in and bought me some lunch which was a big treat in those days. My mother was praying all day. I can only imagine her stress with 6 kids to care for and no insurance, it must have been harrowing with the prospect of having me in the hospital. By the time we reached the hospital the doctor told my mother he did not know what happened but the leg swelling was dramatically reduced and he put a cast on my leg and sent me on my way. I assume he must have seen no signs of the blood clots.

I still remember vividly how painful it was to walk. I counted the steps and picked the shortest pathway each time. My mother was not happy with me when she found me out jumping on the trampoline in my cast with my crutches. I was involved in sports and was quite rambunctious so it was hard to keep me down. I finally healed and was able to run and play all the sports I wanted to. This photo of me on a skateboard with a basketball is pretty accurate for my activity level as a 12-year-old.

Singing while walking on a broken leg helped me make it through that horrible weekend. I think that experience helped me find my interest in music therapy and the rest is history. Music therapy is the scientific application of music to change behavior. I am good at helping my physical therapy patients learn to identify and modify behaviors to help them reduce pain, swelling, weakness, and to improve function. I am grateful for the experiences that have helped me get where I am today.

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I loved reading about your experiences, some of which were truly harrowing-- and how music helped you get through the intense pain. You are a gifted writer as well as healer. How lucky the world is that you chose to go into healing arts with music and physical therapy.

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