January 19, 2018

A Gift from the Heart – Creating Music with a Patient’s Own Heartbeat

For Alex Farrell, a 14-year-old leukemia patient, a special musical project brings a one-of-a-kind heartwarming treasure for herself and those who love her dearly.

With the help of Asheville-based nonprofit Arts for Life, Mission Children’s Hospital patients are taking part in the creative process to produce a song using their heartbeat as a rhythmic element. Heartbeat Sessions yields professional-quality recordings for patients and their families.

Alex’s eclectic taste in music helped create a mashup combining 80s classic rock with a Latin-flavored piece. Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive” and the Cowboy Bebop theme song “Tank!” came to life powered by big brass and Asheville’s music community.

“We wanted Alex to remember she’s still a person beyond her diagnosis. She and her family have a lasting piece of art, marking her journey through treatment,” said Amy Fisher, child life specialist at Mission Children’s Hospital.

“Alex helped create something when everything else in her pipeline had to be put on hold,” said her mother, Chris Brink. “To be part of something new was very good for her.”

Like true collaboration, beautiful music is made when Arts for Life, Mission Health patients, Echo Mountain Recording Studios and local musicians lend their talents to the project.

“A moment in time is captured for families who can look back on the positivity of creating during an otherwise stressful time,” said Annie Rogers, Arts for Life program director.

“Working with Alex was super fun,” said Melissa Hyman, who coordinates and produces the Heartbeat Sessions. “All of the musicians enjoyed the challenge of blending these incredibly different musical styles.”

Alex listened to her song for the first time privately in her home through headphones. She loved the big brass accents to the unique and soulful arrangement. For those who know her, it’s a perfect reflection of her taste and style – beautifully surprising.


Amy Fisher is a child life specialist at Mission Children’s Hospital. For more information on the specialist services provided at Mission Children’s Hospital or to find a pediatrician in your area, visit missionchildrens.org.
To learn more about Heartbeat Sessions, visit artsforlifenc.org/heartbeatsessions.
This article originally appeared in Mission Health’s My Healthy Life magazine. To enjoy more health and wellness articles, join our mailing list to have this free publication mailed to you.