The Gift of Music

Professional flutist, Lauren Erickson, loved performing.

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For years, she practiced, played and performed as her passion for music evolved. As Erickson’s career began to flourish, she was thrown a curve ball - a curve ball that would interrupt not only her music, but every aspect of her daily life.

Erickson, who had been experiencing muscle cramping one day, ended up having the first of many violent seizures triggered by what specialists call a Thyroid Storm, which that took her by total surprise. Her thyroid suddenly began pouring large doses of toxins into her body, causing damage to many of her major organs. Quickly realizing she would have to put her music and career aside, she was hit with the harsh reality that many of her daily functions, like taking her dog for a walk around the block, would be compromised with sudden seizures that sometimes lasted as long as an hour.

Working with a local health care team, Erickson felt defeated and concerned as nobody seemed to be able to figure out the root of the problem or, consequently, an effective treatment. Her health rapidly regressing, she found herself in the hospital for a long period of time feeling weak and discouraged.

With few options left, Erickson transferred her care to Henry Ford Medical Group, where a multidisciplinary team worked diligently to find a remedy to Erickson’s seizures.

Erickson saw Gregory Barkley, M.D., Henry Ford Hospital neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program at Henry Ford Hospital.

Dr. Barkley recommended Erickson see Andrea Thomas, M.A.,LLP, neurology department psychologist, whose goal was to figure out how to reduce Erickson’s stress levels, which were not helping the seizures. Dr. Barkley also astutely assessed an important piece of the puzzle – Erickson’s muscle weakness. Working with Naganand Sripathi, M.D., Neurology, and Christine Geauvreau, R.N., to take a cellular biopsy, the team saw a genetic muscle disorder that is degenerative in nature called Neonatal Carnitine Palmitoyl Transferase Type II Deficiency (CPT II).

The Henry Ford team worked diligently to put together a multidisciplinary care plan for Erickson. Erickson was able to work with Thomas to learn how to recognize signals of stress and avoid them. She was also put on a series of medications and continued to receive regular check-ups.

“As I began to heal, I knew whenever I had a question or needed anything at all, all I had to do was call and the Henry Ford team was there for me,” says Erickson. Erickson’s body slowly began to heal and her checkups gradually became less frequent, as did her seizures. Six years later, Erickson was able to come back to Henry Ford Hospital for something other than a doctor’s appointment. Instead, she came to Henry Ford Hospital to do what she loves…performing.

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Giving back the gift of music

Erickson proudly came to Henry Ford Hospital to play the flute alongside the piano in the East Clinic Lobby with Karen Wezner, R.N., Neurology, one of her many wonderful caretakers and support systems at Henry Ford Hospital.

“Karen and the entire team are the reasons why I’m here and able to play the flute now,” explains Erickson. “The team treated me like a family member, so I’m beyond pleased when I visit I am able to share the gift of music with not only my care team, but the extended Henry Ford Hospital team as well as patients, visitors and guests.”

Wezner, who works as an epilepsy nurse and triage coordinator for the Comprehensive Epilepsy Program, is also a music minister and choir director at her church in her free time. Wezner, as well as numerous employees and volunteers, have been giving back through the gift of music, as part of Henry Ford Hospital’s music program.

“I love seeing the smiles that music puts on people’s faces as they walk past and I especially love being able to play with Lauren,” says Wezner.

Erickson shares Wezner’s passion for seeing the positive impact music can have upon people. For Erickson, the interaction she has with the audience while performing is priceless.

“What I enjoy most about performing is seeing the way music can positively affect someone,” said Erickson. “It’s the child smiling in the front row or the hospital patient telling me they feel blessed to have heard the music. Music has many healing properties to it, and I love the interactions I have with the crowd while performing.”

Erickson’s performances at Henry Ford Hospital, Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital and other area hospitals are part of her music ministry, which she refers to as “Flute à la Carte.”

“The music ministry is really focused on uplifting a broad spectrum of people through the power of music,” said Erickson. “I came up with the name ‘Flute à la Carte’ because it encompasses the idea of offering unique performances at many different locations, for people of many different backgrounds.”

In addition to performing at local hospitals and locations throughout Southeastern Michigan, Erickson enjoys providing music lessons for students who are interested in learning the art of musical performance.

To learn more about the Henry Ford Neuroscience Institute and the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, visit their website.