Practicing safely after open-heart surgery

Paula Tiede said: Feb 18, 2013
 3 posts

My five year old daughter just began playing the violin this fall. She will have open-heart surgery this June. Has anyone been through this? She loves the violin.

Mary said: Feb 18, 2013
 39 posts

I don’t have a child who went through open heart surgery, but my father did a year ago. There were many precautions he had to take in terms of protecting his sternum that involved not lifting anything more than 10 pounds and avoiding pulling or pushing activities that could put unnecessary strain. I believe this went on for at least 8 weeks. I’m sure your daughter’s doctors will go through all of these precautions with you and I honestly don’t know how that would affect violin playing.

But I did want to share that my dad plays the piano and having his piano really helped to keep his spirits up through a very difficult recovery period. After coming home from the hospital he would sit at his piano everyday. At first if was just for a couple of minutes because he’d get so tired, but eventually he built his stamina back up and was able to play several times a day. My dad is completely self-taught and can’t read music, but he has a real connection to his instrument and I know his piano was a key part of his eventual recovery.

It’s great that your daughter loves to play her violin, but if she isn’t able to for those months after her surgery I’d continue to play her violin recordings—not just the Suzuki cds—but other great music to keep her inspired. There are also great videos out there like Peter and the Wolf as well as children’s books that have musical themes. There was a thread here not too long ago about books so you can try to find that to get inspired. If she is already starting to read, maybe you could start her on simple note reading exercises. Rhythm games and singing could be done too to keep her connected to her twinkle variations. Her teacher should have great ideas.

I hope these suggestions were helpful. Wishing you and your daughter well and great success with her surgery.

Paula Tiede said: Feb 19, 2013
 3 posts

Thanks for the reply. I am hoping the music will help her with her recovery like it did for your dad. Yes, I am gathering a post-surgery activity bag/ipad for her recovery & the suggestions about musical themed books is really helpful. We often watch videos in the hospital, they have a Wii! We use both an ipad and an adroid tablet. We are fortunate that there is a music therapist at her hospital. I am trying to find tablet games for music but many with good content are filled with bugs, like the Alfred music series.
This is my daughter’s second time through major open-heart surgery in a year. We know we will have a lot of time when she will need to stay calm and be very still for tests after the surgery. If anyone else out there reading this has any suggestions for ipad/android tablet music games, or any other suggestions for hanging out in the hospital with music we would love the information.
A long, long time ago there was a movie (reel style?) about a little boy learning to play the violin. He sounds awful at the beginning at gets really good by the end of the film. Think it was called, “The Violin”? Wonder if a movie like that one is out there for young kids?

Thanks for taking the time to respond,
Gratefully Paula

Sue Hunt said: Feb 22, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

As your daughter is a beginner, her period of recovery will be a golden opportunity to revisit a treasure chest of exciting beginner games, all without putting the instrument on her shoulder.

There are lots of bow hold games for beginners, for increasing the length of time that she can maintain a good bow hold, while doing something else at the same time.

She can also strengthen her fingers by manipulating very small objects, like pegs in peg boards, using a different finger and thumb each time she picks up another. She can even alternate hands.

“Ring Sequences” is a good game. Call out a short sequence (e.g. 114) and she can tap the fingers with her thumb while saying it back to you. When she gets the hang of it, add a number.

When she’s feeling a stronger, how about a spot of gentle crab wrestling. Both of you should interlock circles made with first finger and thumb. Pull gently, making sure that the circles stay round. The first one to collapse is the looser. Just make sure that she wins.

There will be time for lots and lots of listening. Study listening is very effective. You are never too young to follow the music with a finger, noticing its shape and perhaps, even finding out what some of the symbols mean.

She can learn the bowing of pieces, by ghost bowing in the air.

You don’t need to hold an instrument to practice fingering, or for note learning. Just touch each finger to the thumb.

I hope this helps and I wish you both well.

Kiyoko said: Mar 15, 2013
 84 posts

The tablets are a great idea for keeping your daughter engaged in music.

A simple iPad app my toddler son loves is “Music Sparkles.” It doesn’t truly emulate playing so the physical risk isn’t there, but she will be able to make the sounds of various instruments (more if you unlock it.) There are other more sophisticated iPad apps too like Garage Band that aren’t quite appropriate for my son yet. You might also look into drum and rhythm apps as rhythm is something that will always be helpful to work on.

There are plenty of YouTube videos of kids playing music, Suzuki solo and group recitals, musicians like Perlman on Sesame Street, performances of classical and pop violinists like Vanessa Mae, and lots more. There is even a beatbox flutist who plays Peter and the Wolf. If you preview them you can pop the ones you like into a Favorites list.

You could also keep a practice bow—one like what she used with her box violin, at her bedside to work on her bow hold. That way you don’t have to worry about the her real bow. (Once they okay her to start raising her arms again, it might even be a useful tool for therapy.)

And of course, we have plenty of music pre-downloaded to our tablets so an Internet connection isn’t required to listen. Our Suzuki recordings are there too.

Best wishes for a successful surgery and quick recovery!

Paula Tiede said: Mar 21, 2013
 3 posts

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my request. My husband is printing these great notes for me & I am making the hospital bag now. Our surgery was moved up & we will be in the hospital soon. Again, thank you so much!
Paula and Lana Tiede

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