One nurse is going viral for her heartfelt tribute to a COVID-19 patient. Allison Walker, of Methodist Hospital South in Jourdanton, Texas, wanted to do more than just treat her patient’s underlying illness. She wanted to heal them spiritually and mentally with her singing voice.
A Moving Voice
Walker, who’s been a nurse for 10 years, started singing in church when she was just a girl. She first got the idea to sing for her patients while she was completing her certified nursing assistant (CNA) clinicals in 2008 at a facility for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
She remembers listening to the patients reading from the Bible and singing soft hymns. One song in particular seemed to get everyone’s attention, even though many of them were not fully alert at the time. Nearly everyone could sing “In the Garden” word for word, which inspired Walker to sing along.
Now that she’s a nurse, she continues to sing for her patients when they need it most.
“We’re here to take care of you and how you feel and what you’re concerned with and what your fears are … these all matter to us, too. It’s part of your healing,” she said.
She was recently caring for one patient with expressive aphasia—partial loss of the ability to produce language. She asked the patient a series of routine questions, but they could barely get the words out.
That’s when Walker decided to take a different approach.
“I sometimes use music because music involves a different side of the brain,” she says.
Her voice eventually got the patient to respond.
“Even though she was having trouble getting the words out, I could sing with her. She had fun with it,” said Walker. “Singing activates a different side of the brain and they’re able to function in helping wake up that other side of the brain.”
Singing through COVID-19
Spiritual healing has become even more important during the pandemic. Walker says her voice often helps patients relax as they combat the virus.
“It’s a fearful time for patients. It just kind of escalated being in the hospital as being scary [during COVID]. And so, sometimes I will be gowned up in full PPE singing. I’ll give patients a hug, I’ll pray with them … whatever it takes,” said Walker. “I sing to them to interact with them and calm them. And sometimes it would help them laugh and, you know, relax and help them smile.”
One of her patients, Tom Sablatura, said her singing helped him recover from the illness. He was under her care for three or four days at the hospital.
While Walker was working on the weekends, she decided to sing hymns for those that couldn’t make it to church. When she walked into Sablatura’s room, she heard gospel music. His daughter, Heather Mutz, eventually posted a video of Walker singing to her dad to her Facebook page.
View this post on Instagram
“Never did we expect for him to have that kind of personal care where he’s not just another patient, especially with COVID being so crazy and hospitals being so full. And I mean, to have that one-on-one attention was so great,” said Mutz. “We felt like this was God’s plan for us to be at this place.”
Walker says these experiences have taught the value of empathy.
She encourages everyone to be kind to one another as we continue fighting the pandemic.
“I’m neutral with vaccinated or unvaccinated … that’s the last thing on my mind when I’m taking care of a patient. And I’ve seen patients on both sides of it pass away. It’s heartbreaking,” she said.
“I get my little glimpse of relating to soldiers on the front lines in countries that get killed, quickly or tragically. I won’t say I relate completely because I haven’t done what they’ve done, but just seeing people go quickly … it’s so tragic. It changes you inside. And so, if I can just bring a breath of fresh air to take time out of my day, to just pause and help, even though it ends up helping me pause and feel refreshed. In the same, it helps them, it helps me. We help each other.”
She also encourages her colleagues to make more time for their patients instead of rushing through their day or racing off to go home.
“We’re nurses. It’s just like life outside of the hospital— we don’t have time. We never have time. So, we make time,” she said. “There’s been so many times I never have time, but I end up making the time to make somebody else’s day because I’m only there for 12 hours. Patients are there 24/7, trying to get better. So, the least we can do is to make time for our patients.”