After 6 months of hospital stays and health challenges, Ella Heyworth needed all the help she could get.
“This all has been really crazy,” said the 17 year old from Ashland, who has been diagnosed with Type 3 hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) and vasovagal syncope.
But Ella has found hope through her deep faith as well as music, something that continues to soothe her soul even on the toughest days. She shared her talents at this year’s Create, Heal, Inspire showcase of the arts at the Emily Cooper Welty Expressive Therapy Center on June 19.
During a practice at the center prior to the event, she rehearsed 2 songs, “The Climb” and “Hills and Valleys,” with music therapist Liz Germano. The 2 sat at the piano and ran through the songs a few times after Ella came in for a doctor’s appointment.
“She sings from her heart,” said her mother as she watched from the sidelines, adding that Ella never took a piano lesson.
Ella said she has had about 4 or 5 hospital stays just this year. She found the Expressive Therapy Center to be a special place when she was inpatient and participated in 1-on-1 sessions with Liz as well as inpatient drum circles with little ones half her age.
“God has given me a talent and it’s what has helped me through this,” she said. “I’ve lost a lot through being sick but one thing that hasn’t left me is playing piano and singing.”
She’s so appreciative that she arranged for proceeds from a T-shirt sale in her honor to be given to the Center to support music therapy programs. The sale, organized by a friend, netted about $1,000.
During Create, Heal, Inspire, a few dozen patients, their families and invited guests enjoyed an array of arts produced by patients with the help of the center’s staff. In addition to Liz, patients work with narrative medicine coordinator Nicole Robinson and art therapists Emily Grabo and Jody Pittner. The Center is also the rehearsal spot for Dance Unlimited, the hospital’s dance troupe directed by physical therapist Kellie Lightfoot, who is a former Cavs dancer.
This year, 4 patients sang, 25 exhibited artwork and 6 read or displayed their poetry.
Patient Aisley Benneman took part with both her artwork and poetry after coming into the Center just that day.
“She and her mom wandered into the Center Wednesday while we were setting up,” said Emily. “Last minute we offered a spot in the event, so we framed her artwork for her to have it on display. Nikki [Robinson] then went that afternoon to write with her.”
Dance Unlimited also entertained. With the help of dance assistants, who are volunteers that assist kids with balance or movement, dancers learn routines custom created to fit each of their abilities – a version for stand-up and sit-down dancers, for kids wearing braces and for those who can only move their head and neck.
Liz said the event is the highlight of the year for the Center and the patients it serves.
“It really celebrates the services we provide and gives the patients an opportunity to share that with other patients and their family and friends,” she said.