Deforia Lane is a dear friend of mine. I met her when I was on the threshold of stepping into the world of music as medicine back in 1990. Deforia was just finishing up her Ph.D. in music therapy and was speaking at a conference in Cleveland about her doctoral research on music and the immune system. After hearing Deforia speak, my decision was made and, thanks to Dr. Arthur Harvey, I was able to cross over from the world of music performance to music medicine! Deforia has been a huge influence on me and her ongoing work with music therapy in the hospital setting inpires me to do my work!
It’s easy for others to see why Deforia Lane received the Ohio Hospital Association’s Health Care Worker of the Year award. Medicine program at University Hospitals in Cleveland, was so surprised by the calling of her name during the awards presentation, that it took several seconds for her to respond to it.
“I went there thinking, ‘This is a free meal tonight.’ That’s all,” Lane laughed during a telephone interview on Tuesday, a handful of hours after the three-hour drive back to Cleveland. The hospital association honored 84 “health-care heroes” on Monday night.
Lane is a certified music therapist. She has bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in vocal performance and music education. But her most rewarding education has been at the bedside of sick or dying patients at University Hospitals.
There, Lane and her staff of seven music therapists work miracles. They sing, play instruments and compose songs for patients who have lost their voices to illness, tragedy or age.
“We all respond to music,” said Lane, who has witnessed its ability to reduce anxiety, physically relax and create hope for patients. ”Music inspires the soul,” she said.
Lane started the program in 1984 after her second bout with cancer. She attended an American Cancer Society support group at University Hospitals’ Ireland Cancer Center called I Can Cope.
“In short, cancer patients come there to learn what they can about the disease process, the treatment options, etc.,” Lane said. “They are usually six weeks long, about an hour a week, and I was with about seven other patients. We all told our stories and learned a lot.”
Lane was so encouraged “by having been with people who were walking a mile in my shoes” that she asked whether she could compose and sing a song for the last group session.
“I wanted to show my gratitude,” she said.
She received a “yes” from the facilitator, but forgot about her promise until minutes before the final session began. Lane composed her song in the ladies’ room. “I flushed, ran to the group, sang it, we all hugged each other and that was that,” she said.
Soon, Lane was asked to record her song and make a presentation with it at an Ireland Cancer Center employee education seminar. Almost on the spot, she was asked to join the staff — part time — to create University Hospitals’ music therapy program.
Now, 25 years later, Lane looks back at her ongoing journey as a blessing. ”It’s been nothing short of a story made in heaven,” she said.
Mary Vanac is co-founder of MedCity News and serves as its vice president and Ohio bureau chief.