He has been receiving dialysis since he was diagnosed two years ago with chronic kidney disease.
He’s waiting and actively praying for a kidney transplant, but he has no idea if or when that might occur.
Meanwhile, he’s too tired to do many of the activities his young adult counterparts take for granted.
He has spent a lot of time on the seventh floor in Akron Children’s Hospital’s dialysis unit. He’s made friends there. Many of them have gotten kidneys donated and transplanted. They have gone on with their lives while Blackwell is still waiting for his turn to come.
The two discuss favorite songs, how Chris can learn to play them on his guitar, and a host of personal issues that are top of mind for Chris.
Blackwell likes Christian rock songs along with most mainstream pop. He shares with Tobias a few songs that he recently found and liked on YouTube, including Sweetly Broken, by Jeremy Riddle.
“I believe that Chris is deeply connected to music,” said Tobias. “For him, it’s equivalent to a spiritual experience, allowing his mind to become calm and centered. He finds respite and solace in listening to, engaging in and creating music.”
During a recent music therapy session, Tobias writes music notes on index cards. She mixes them up and places them in a make shift dish, an upside down tambourine.
Blackwell picks three randomly and those notes become the foundation for the chords.
Soon, their two voices meet. They jam, singing with musical sounds instead of words. There are many “la, la, la’s” as they work together to figure out the melody, verses and chorus to their new song.
Before long, they decide to insert some words.
“Love, love, broken love,” they decide should be the first line. “Hear me. Hear me, please. I’ve been broken down and I am waiting to be found. Save me. Save me. Hear me. Hear me.”
All the while, it’s clear that Blackwell has been transported to a better place through music.
“Music therapy gives me joy,” he said after the jam session. “It is a spiritual thing for me. I go back to important life events and how I was feeling at that time. Right now, I feel like I am floating on the clouds.”
Tobias said that her role while working with Blackwell is to focus his energy and help prepare an environment for his creativity to shine through. Soon, the two will create a CD of existing and new music in Akron Children’s expressive therapy center.
“When artists create a representation of their art, it allows for them to express their feelings and release them, get them out and on paper,” Tobias said. “When recorded, the work exists separate from the creator. This allows the person to listen in the future and reflect on that particular time in their life. It also gives a person a sense of accomplishment and something to share with others.”