Music Therapy Revives Paralyzed Patient’s Life After Rare Disease


We all know that music can be healing, but this amazing story proves that it can do miracles.

This remarkable recovery story emerged after a patient that was almost completely paralyzed by a rare disease managed to regain his ability to walk and talk. But what makes it even more incredible is what led him to his astounding progress. After his music therapist prescribed him to do mindful listening of his favorite song by The Carpenters every night, it would seem that he miraculously regained his life again.

71-year-old Ian Palmer was struck by Guillain-Barré syndrome in June of last year, leaving his confined to his hospital bed for an arduous seven months. During this time, Ian faced the devastating consequences of this highly rare medical condition, where his very own immune system was attacking his motor nerves, leaving his muscles weak and in severe cases, paralyzed.

Ian explained, “It selectively targets the motor nerve cells and you have to wait for them to regenerate—which in your 70s is quite worrying!”

“I was in intensive care, being suctioned 24 hours a day, as I couldn’t swallow, and this was leading to choking problems, and I had a nasogastric tube fitted for over four months,” he added.

Aside from the disease making him unable to speak, it also caused damage to his larynx, which is the passage in the throat that’s responsible for making sounds. However, when Ian was transferred to the state-of-the-art care unit, Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre, located in Lancashire, England, the clinicians there used music therapy techniques to help combat the ‘near total paralysis of his body.’

Clare, his specialist, taught him mindfulness techniques using his favorite records, which is how he began listening to The Carpenters every night.

At first, Ian was quite skeptical of this type of therapeutic journey. However, the results were nothing short of astonishing. By “opening up” his brain, these exercises empowered him to cover a distance of two miles – 3 kilometers – on foot each day and engage in meaningful conversations with his family.

Moreover, he was never truly musical to begin with, so when Sue Ryder first suggested music therapy, he replied, “What good is that going to do?”

Ian shared, “I’m a typical Northern man, and I thought, ‘What’s a girl with a guitar going to do for me—get me to the gym.’”

“But it really worked. Clare sat me down and explained the process. I learned that music is very unlike other therapies, as it opens up all of the brain,” he added.

In addition, she taught Ian how to sing a long note using his diaphragm to assist him.

“I told her, ‘I don’t even know where that is!’ But, she explained that by calling on the diaphragm, you’re training the brain so that it can use other muscles too. It learns the pathways and reopens them,” Ian said.

She also got him to practice other mindfulness techniques, also with assistance from him favorite records.

“She wanted something I could relax to, and being of a certain age, The Carpenters was my choice. She asked me to do it before bed, and now I put The Carpenters on every night. She told me to push away the thoughts, and just focus on the music,” Ian shared.

The clinic that Ian has attended but has since been discharged from has locations all around England and Scotland. He goes on to say that he was incredibly amazed by the difference music therapy has made to his experience and life.

“One of my goals was to walk through my front door. Now I can take my headphones and go for a walk doing my vocal exercises. There’s been such a positive impact,” he said.

He also learned how to breathe more effectively using his diaphragm.

“My mum couldn’t understand me when she first came to visit. But now I’m confident that the music therapy I’ve received has more than dealt with it, and my voice has been able to join the rest of my body in recovering,” he added.