When my husband was getting well, we had the good fortune to meet a fellow trauma survivor, Laura Sharpe. She had survived a helicopter crash a couple of years earlier and was further along in her recovery than we were. It was so helpful to have a positive role model showing us what was possible, especially in the early days when Ford was still in a wheelchair, with many surgeries and years of recovery still ahead. Seeing how far Laura had come helped us believe even more deeply that a full and complete recovery was achievable.
When Ford was first released from the initial 5-month hospital stay, he could barely talk. He had been intubated and trached for so long that his vocal chords were damaged. Having been a singer earlier in my career, I decided voice lessons would help him get his beautiful speaking voice back. We enlisted the help of voice specialist Bruce Eckstut to work with Ford. When Laura heard about this she so generously made Ford the first recipient of a grant from her newly formed organization “Artists for Trauma” and paid for these lessons. You see Laura had seen firsthand how working with the arts improved her own trauma recovery. She had worked with visual artists and dancers in her own journey to claim back her life.
I’ll never forget the first time Bruce came to the apartment. Ford was unable to leave the bed at the time. Bruce sat by his bedside and did yawning and relaxing vocal exercises with Ford for an hour. He was so patient with him and by the end of our sessions together we were driving to Bruce’s home, Ford was able to use a wheelchair and actually stand for the lesson, and he was singing!
Not only did the voice lessons heal Ford’s vocal chords, but the act of memorizing a tune and singing it back did something amazing. It helped with Ford’s traumatic brain injury recovery. It created new neural pathways and worked his brain in wonderful healing ways different from any of the other therapies we were doing. That was an unexpected bonus! Not to mention, it’s pretty great to hear my husband sing. The song he worked on was called “Anyone Can Whistle” from the Sondheim musical of the same name. One of the lyrics says, “What’s hard is simple, what’s natural comes hard. Maybe you could show me how to let go; lower my guard; learn to be free…” I could cry right now remembering how desperately my beautiful husband was trying to heal and be free from his catastrophic injuries. How doing simple math, being able to walk, and putting a shirt on seemed like enormous feats.
Laura started “Artists for Trauma” in 2011 – the year of Ford’s accident. Since then it has grown enormously and it continues to help trauma survivors all over the world by pairing them with artists of all mediums to help facilitate their recoveries. Check out the link and get involved or help this incredible organization if you can. I will forever be grateful for the love, support and kindness Laura Sharpe gave to Ford and I.