Can singing a lullaby ease a child’s pain?


Guitar and patient
Nick Pickett playing to Sam Wallace

Amid the beeping of heart monitors, a more gentle noise can be heard on the wards of Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The soft voice of musician Nick Pickett and the strumming of his guitar are entertaining the young patients in Bear Ward.

All the children here are under three years old. Some are facing the long wait for a heart transplant and are being kept alive by the rhythmic beating of a mechanical heart.

Sam Wallace’s bed is surrounded by balloons, toys and other reminders of home. His grandmother, Viv Green, says the music has a transformative effect.

“Oh, Sammy loves music, he has always loved music.

Keira and Ian Bowers

Keira and Ian

Three-year-old Keira has been in hospital since the middle of June with heart failure.

She needs a Berlin mechanical heart, which helps her own heart pump blood around the body.

Her father Ian says the music makes a “big difference.

“It gives them a lift with the musical instruments, just to take their mind off where they are and the conditions they have.

“It perks her day up so it makes her feel wanted in a respect, so it does leave a lasting impression.”

“It just makes him happy. He will sing and dance. He loves to dance, he moves with the music as soon as he hears it and it just brightens him up completely – he’s a different boy.”

Improving moods

But is the bedside entertainment having a clinical benefit on children such as Sam? Can a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star actually help patients?

A team at the hospital and University of Roehampton tried to find out.

Thirty-seven children were played songs – including Five Little Ducks, See-Saw Marjorie Daw and Hush-a-Bye Baby – while nurses monitored their heart rates and assessed their pain levels.

The impact of the music was compared with storytelling or just leaving a child alone.

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