Nobody explained to me that I had a tracheostomy, I just thought someone had taken my voicebox out and that I wouldn’t be able to speak again…  Nobody actually put two and two together and said ‘you know, the reason you can’t speak is not because you can’t speak, it’s because you’ve got this tube…’ All I could feel was this thing – like a plastic tube round my neck. And I had these images of my little voice literally trapped in a box. Which effectively it was, if you think about it.

What I do remember is that there was always music playing – always. And I never thought anything of it. Literally everything would be accompanied by music… Long, long symphonies – it was always classical music; and I said to my mum, quite a long time afterwards, [when] we went to visit someone else in intensive care, ‘God, you can hear a pin drop in here’ and she said ‘Yeah’, and I said ‘but I remember the radio was always on’. And I could picture the radio beside me. And she said ‘[there was] never a radio on. It was always dead quiet.’
So I think that basically my brain must have been keeping me company. And creating… sort of structure and form, and distraction…
Because that’s what music does doesn’t it? You have a section, an A section, or whatever, and it gives you something predictable to hang on to in a way, you know it’s going to come to an end, and then something else is going to take over. To be honest with you that’s why I trained to be a music therapist. Because that experience was so powerful. And I remember also that all the doctors were just ‘Why is your daughter so stoic?’ Because I was; I mean it was awful, it was traumatic, and incredibly painful, and worrying and what have you, but I don’t know, I think because – it sounds really cheesy – but I think because I had this kind of musical …I don’t know what you’d call it, kind of like a backdrop, I suppose… – that it meant it was… survivable. And I think that’s the other interesting thing: because this music was going in the background, I think it kind of kept me plugged in to life, or – you know – what I’d done before. I can’t remember specifically what it was – it wasn’t like there was a piece. But… it was kind of life, it was a distraction, it was hope, it was structure, it was form, it was company. Because the one thing about being in hospital, especially intensive care, when you’re cordoned off or whatever – it’s so lonely, and so boring.
I don’t know whether it’s brain, I don’t know whether it’s soul, I don’t know where you go with that kind of thinking…. But it wasn’t freaky.
[Being in intensive care] is horribly confusing, and frightening as well. Lots of funny noises. And I think in a way, I don’t know, [the music] blocked a lot of things out – it was kind of a filter.
I’ve often thought ‘God, what if you don’t have that experience or you don’t have that in your bones or in your chemistry, or you don’t play an instrument or whatever, and you go to intensive care – what happens? What does your brain do?’ You know – if you don’t have that to cling on to.
[Being in intensive care] – not being able to be articulate, not being able to be expressive, not being able to have a kind of interface with someone – almost like you’re kind of um… It’s like you’re frozen, somehow… I think when you’re so drugged up, you can’t really feel your body – so you’re not in your body, you’re more out of your body, but you can’t speak – you’re completely disconnected in a way, and – weightless, sort of suspended. You haven’t got any roots, you’ve got no foundation for things, nothing solid to hang on to. But I think you can be very articulate in music, even if you can’t for whatever reason either be articulate in words or in conversation…
I mean they were epic – it wasn’t just like a quartet, it was like a proper full-on big, old 19th century orchestra, with, you know, brass and horns and everything. I remember the first time I went to the Proms and heard a Bruckner symphony, and I had this real kind of …‘I’ve heard this before’. It was weird.  ‘This is the sort of stuff that my brain was up to…’ Symphonic, Wagnerian, epic, went on for hours…
I remember sometimes thinking ‘ooh I’d quite like to switch it off for a bit and then put it back on again’, but I couldn’t. But most of the time I remember it being quite comforting, actually. And I think there was sort of more sort of Beethoven, and piano concertos that my brain made up – it’s quite clever really when you think about it…


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