Harmonicas Help Young Patients Keep Lungs Clear – Hartford Courant

Sometimes an everyday item can have an extraordinary purpose.

Tom Genovese of Suffield learned this last October when his grand-nephew, Jordyn Remmey, hurt himself. The 5-year-old child was making his way to the top of a bunk bed to awaken his big brother. “He climbed up the ladder, lost his balance and got caught in the ladder. When he came down, he lacerated his spleen,” explains Genovese, noting Jordyn’s intense pain and discomfort.

Genovese bought the Manchester boy an inexpensive present — a simple $8 harmonica — meant to entertain Jordyn during his five-night stay at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford. Little did Genovese know his purchase would catch the eye of medical professionals.

“In pediatrics, we always find different ways to help promote breathing exercises with kids,” says Cliff Gerich, manager of respiratory care at the medical center. “In the past, we’ve used bubbles. They’re easy, they’re cheap, they’re accessible. We’d never thought about using a harmonica.”

Like many patients on bed rest, Jordyn was using a spirometer, a medical instrument patients blow into several times a day to keep their lungs clear. Patients must work their lungs to avoid fluid buildup that can lead to infections like pneumonia. Therapists want them to exhale and inhale in a purposeful way to strengthen the lungs and clear secretions. “We’re always looking for alternative therapies like [the harmonica] and thinking outside of the box,” says Gerich. He believes this approach can help children with all sorts of respiratory issues, including asthma and cystic fibrosis.

Genovese saw first hand the positive effect the harmonica had on Jordyn. “When it was first given to him, he could barely get a note blowing and he couldn’t get anything drawing,” he says. “To hear him today, it’s cool. He’s really come a long way.”

Genovese launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to donate the small instruments to CCMC. So far, he’s collected more than $1,000. He’s still accepting donations through the web site, gofundme.com/harmonica-clear-lung-project.

Gerich and other experts at the medical center enjoy involving families in finding creative solutions to common problems. “This is a big change,” he says. “It’s good.”

Genovese, a former band member who plays accordion, piano, organ, guitar, and, yes, the harmonica, loves that kids can receive a health benefit while making music, which is always good for the soul.

For his part, Jordyn, a big fan of ice cream and cartoons, is glad he’s healing, and that he’s no longer frightened by his aching belly.

And helping others? That’s cool, too. “I like kids to be better,” says the kindergartner.

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