How music therapy makes a difference
August 8 2017, 5:15 pm

Music has made all the difference for Gillie Lumby as he recovers from spinal surgery at the RCH. Born with cerebral palsy, Gillie recently underwent selective dorsal rhizotomy, a spinal operation to reduce the spasticity in his legs.

“His surgeon identified the nerves responsible and disconnected them to stop the spasticity which made it difficult for him to walk,” said Gillie’s mum Sharon. “This surgery is fairly rare, as there are a lot of factors to consider to be sure it’s a success.”


Though the surgery is a significant part of treatment, the post-surgery rehabilitation plays an even greater role in Gillie’s recovery. As an aspiring drummer, Music Therapy was the perfect solution to encourage Gillie to regain his strength.

Music Therapy uses the power and experience of music to help children through their treatment. Thanks to Knox/Sherbrooke, Parkville and Viva Auxiliaries, children with neurological conditions and/or undergoing rehabilitation like Gillie are benefitting from Music Therapy.

When Gillie was recovering in the PICU, Sharon met with Music Therapist Michelle Fisher. They discussed what kind of music Gillie likes — AC/DC is his favourite — and his love of playing the drums. From there, Michelle worked with Gillie’s physiotherapist and occupational therapist to coordinate the best rehabilitation care for him. Gillie began working with Michelle twice a week to improve strength and mobility in his trunk.

“At first Gillie was only allowed to lie prone on his bed, so we started small, asking him to reach forward a bit to tap the drums,” said Michelle. “Once he was more mobile, we progressed to crawling from drum to drum and kneeling at drums to play. These were meaningful ways to motivate Gillie to start moving, which were easily adapted to his physical needs at the given time.”

Additional inspiration came when Gillie found out about the RCH Music Room.

“When Gillie found out that there was a music room with a full drum kit, he was even more motivated to do his exercises and get out of bed to play,” said Sharon. “Once he progressed to sitting in a wheelchair, he was on that drum kit.”

Keen to play AC/DC’s Highway to Hell, Michelle sourced the drum pattern for Gillie. With a few weeks of practice he was a pro, jamming with his dad Kendall, his younger brother Sammy and, in his final session, older brother Jesse.

“Music Therapy was wonderful for Gillie. It was something he really looked forward to, and it was fun to watch him play and be so happy,” said Sharon.

Gillie is now home and continuing his year of recovery with physiotherapy and, of course, a few drum sessions along the way.