A Publication of WTVP

A growing program uses the arts to diminish stress and promote healing.

Healing at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is not always prompted by doctors, surgery or medication. Sometimes, the simple stroke of a keyboard or strum of a guitar causes patients and guests to take a deep breath, relax their minds, and forget their worries for the time-being.

The Arts and Healing Program takes place on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month in the lobby of the Gerlach building (Zone 1) of the hospital, where a variety of artists—whether a professional musician, painter or otherwise—showcase their talents for onlookers. The program began in August 2011, but has grown over the years, says Deborah Trau, RN, director of volunteer services.

“The Arts and Healing Program really demonstrates the kind of care we like to provide here, which includes physical, mental and spiritual care,” she explains. “It shows our mission at work, and it speaks to everyone.”

Studies have shown that art and music diminish stress and promote healing, which is why they search for “artists, not amateurs,” she adds.

On a Tuesday in August, the Gerlach lobby was home to a professional pianist from Peoria. Patients passed by, and some even took a seat while Roman Wegrzyn played the well-known song, “Send in the Clowns.” Wegrzyn, a pianist since childhood, studied music education at Bradley University, graduating in 1973, and has owned the local piano tuning and repair business, Roman’s Piano Service, since 1978. For the past 30 years, he has also played for weddings and a variety of parties, along with being a member of many local bands.

His wife, Karla Wegrzyn, who is concierge for hospitality services at OSF Saint Francis, says he has been a part of the Arts and Healing Program since its inception. While Roman suffers from pre-onset Alzheimer’s disease, his piano playing is still very much on point, she says.

“He has what is called ‘absolute perfect pitch,’ so he plays tunes by ear. It’s truly amazing,” says Karla, while sitting next to her husband at his keyboard. “Hospitals can be stressful places, but many people have commented on his playing and how soothing it is.”

While working at a desk nearby in the lobby, Sister Faustina agreed with the relaxing nature of the piano playing. “Roman will play requests; he is so wonderful,” she says. “The program really seems to bring people together.” iBi

The Arts and Healing Program is always looking for new talent to showcase. For anyone wanting to get involved, Deborah Trau can be reached by email at [email protected] or at (309) 655-2318.