For patients at the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital (TWH), singing has been life-changing. Singing to Breathe is a music therapy group that launched in 2016 through a collaborative effort between patients and clinic staff. The group is funded almost entirely through the support of Joseph Mulder in memory of his partner Richard Malo, who passed away from lung disease in 2015 and was a beloved patient at the Clinic.
The group is open to those living with chronic lung disease, or those who are pre- or post-lung transplant. Every other Tuesday, 12-25 patients are led in song for two hours, and the results have been extraordinary. Participants in the group report a number of health and social benefits, including: improved mood and energy, forming new friendships, feeling more relaxed and an ability to hold notes longer and greater ease of breathing.
“Our goal is to improve health and well-being, and every voice is welcome – we’ll meet you where you’re at” says Hannah Bouza, accredited Music Therapist for the group.
Joseph’s annual contribution along with tribute gifts made by their family and friends keep the program going each year. With a generous legacy gift, Joseph has pledged to establish the Richard Malo Internship in Music Therapy at TWH – allowing for ongoing success and growth of the program in perpetuity. This legacy gift will enable countless patients to experience the proven benefits of music therapy.
To honour Richard, the group also raises awareness of lung disease by holding public performances twice a year: a spring concert and a holiday show. They perform under the name “The Malo Tones”, and wear scarves for their performances, a nod to Richard.
“The singing, in combination with the breathing exercises we do have helped to open my throat and airways,” says Helen, who has been an eager participant since inception.
“The atmosphere is wonderful and the therapists bring so much positive energy to the rooms, which gives everyone a physical and mental lift,” adds Naomi, also a performer in the group. “It’s incredible that someone like me, who normally requires an oxygen tank, can just get up and sing.”
Studies show numerous benefits of singing for patients with various lung diseases. One of them is an increase in blood oxygen level saturation. An increase in psychosocial well-being was also demonstrated in the research, as was an improvement in posture from using proper singing techniques.
Joseph is delighted to be able to keep Richard’s memory alive by funding a program that really helps people.
“You can’t take it with you, says Joseph. “If you can afford to give back, you should do your part.”
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