As medical care gets better and better at helping people survive that would have died in the recent past, more and more people experience the limbo of between life and death. In many cases, the insults to one’s body, mind and sense of self are tremendous. From these experiences, we who have been through this, carry scars, physical and psychological. Yet, we also may carry insights — insights into the way medical care could be delivered, areas of research that could be pursued, priorities in living our lives. In some cultures value is placed on the experiences of people who have survived this limbo, and been close to death.
So one question is: what can we learn from these experiences about health, illness and treating illness?
When I finally surfaced from the hell of extended delirium, I had a couple of thoughts, 1) music was the most important thing, 2) I wanted to learn to speak French. I have pursued both of those avenues in various ways. And I believe from my own experience that music and language learning both have much to offer the post-trauma mind. I think the new pathways necessary to learn a language, although extremely difficult, have a potential to “rewire” the brain and help overcome post-traumatic stress disorder. I also believe that music can provide not only stress relief, but an occupation for the minds to help decrease delirium for people on ventilators and in Intensive Care Units. I think there is increasing evidence to support both of these ideas, but more research must be done to prove these non-invasive treatments for a very serious and potentially life-shattering conidition: delirium.