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news News Wednesday, July 26, 2017 Sunday, November 12, 2017 11:13 AM - Sunday, November 12, 2017 11:13 AM

Fifteen-year-old learns to play guitar during inpatient stay at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital

Spending weeks in halo traction, Tyler jams out with music therapist

Fifteen-year-old learns to play guitar during inpatient stay at the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital

Before coming to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Philadelphia, Tyler had a severe spinal curve due to his scoliosis. He was involved in physical therapy to help improve his curve but wasn’t seeing the results he was hoping for. Then, Tyler’s mom heard about the Philadelphia Shriners Hospital and she connected with Joshua Pahys, M.D.

Dr. Pahys suggested halo traction, leading to spine surgery. The halo has pins that attach to Tyler’s skull to help distribute the weight of the traction evenly. The halo device connects to a walker with weights attached on a pulley to help straighten his spine as much as possible before surgery. Now 15, Tyler is making the most of his lengthy inpatient stay. 

“Tyler always wanted to learn to play guitar, but he never slowed down enough to learn,” said Tyler’s mom Alicia. Now that Tyler has weeks of downtime as an inpatient, he spends time with music therapist Jackie Macri. “It’s really cool because it’s not like a typical teacher telling you what to do. Jackie picks a song that she doesn’t know, so we can learn to play it together,” said Tyler. 

One of the first songs Tyler learned to play was Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. Why? A family friend reached out to the band and they sent Tyler a guitar signed by the band members, during his hospital stay. 

Learning to play the guitar isn’t the only comfort Tyler has found during his stay. His connections with other patients have proved to be mutually beneficial.
“When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. But when I saw the patient in the room next door, who was 7 or 8 years old walking around with a smile on her face while she was in her halo, I thought ‘if she can do it, I can do it, too.’” When his new friend was discharged after her surgery, Tyler had a special Build-A-Bear made for her. 

When a new patient arrived to have the same surgery as Tyler, staff could tell she was nervous about her upcoming procedure. They asked Tyler to speak with her. “The nurses told me that whatever Tyler said to her helped her enormously. She wasn’t afraid anymore,” said Alicia.

In addition to the advanced treatment Tyler is receiving, his grandmother says their stay at the hospital is even more special. Her father, Tyler’s great-grandfather, was an Ismailia Shriner in their native Buffalo. His grandmother and great-grandmother were also members of the Order of the Eastern Star, a masonic organization.

Getting ready to turn 16 and enter his junior year of high school, Tyler is interested in pursuing a career in sports marketing and communications. So what is Tyler most excited for after he’s no longer in traction? “Sleeping on my stomach, as stupid as it is. And just getting back to my normal life.” 

Tyler with his music teacher

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