Lullaby and Stairway to Heaven

If you are in an airport you would probably hear an announcement like this: “Flight 201 to Manila, now boarding in gate 7.”

If you are in a grocery store it maybe something like this: “Assistance needed for price check in counter 3.”

If you are in a hotel it may be similar to this: “Ms. Nely Ligaw, please meet your party at the lobby.”

Those overhead announcements are clear and you know exactly what they are calling for.

However, if you happen to visit a hospital, you may hear announcements on the public address system that you have no idea what’s going on, like: “Code Blue in room North 357.”

In case you are wondering what they are about, here are some of the announcements in the hospital and what they mean. Different hospital systems though have different codes, but here is what we have in ours.

Code Blue: a call for a patient that needs immediate attention and resuscitation, like in cardiac arrest or respiratory arrest. (From my standpoint this is the most common call I run to.)

Code Red: there is fire

Code Green: a call to help subdue a patient or somebody with aggressive or combative behavior

Code Silver: a call to find a missing patient

Code Black: there is a bomb threat

Code Pink: a call for pediatric emergency or obstetrical emergency

Of course there are also announcements that don’t need to be decoded, like “Dr. Stork, please call Labor and Delivery,” or “Level 1 Trauma in the Emergency Room now.”

Recently, our hospital adopted a practice of playing a song over the public address system that perplexed me, at least in the beginning.

I was making my hospital rounds one morning with the medical residents when a lullaby, the first riff of “Rock-a-bye Baby,” was played on the overhead paging system. Were they trying to lull the patients to sleep? But it was the wrong time of the day! A lullaby can only make me and the other doctors who are already sleep deprived, more sleepy.

The residents then told me, maybe after seeing my confused look, that the lullaby song was a public proclamation that a baby was just born. Now, it make sense. A lullaby to herald a baby into this world. Since then I have been hearing “Rock-a-bye Baby” being played overhead several times.

As we take care of the critically ill patients, especially in the ICU, and we deal more of deaths than births, my residents and I wonder if we should also play something overhead when a patient passed away, like the tolling of the bells.

A child’s birth is a happy occasion, and the hospital can be proud to announce that kind of event. I don’t think you can say the same with a patient dying. I see a reason why a hospital would not like that to be made public. Yet death is a normal occurrence, especially in the hospital, and is a reality of life.

If they would play a song for every death, then what song would it be? Maybe a bugle call like “Taps.” Or perhaps a hymn like “Nearer my God to Thee.” Or maybe a beloved song like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

One medical intern, who is perhaps a student of classic rock, jokingly suggested “Stairway to Heaven.” I smiled at his suggestion and told him that I like his idea.

I don’t mean to disrespect the dead and their memory, nor do I mock Led Zeppelin and classic rock. My point only is that perhaps we can play something in honor of those who depart, just like we play a lullaby to welcome those who enter this world.

But maybe a lullaby can also be played for the departed, as we bid them a final goodnight.


Here’s Chloe Agnew’s (Celtic Woman) version of Brahms’s Lullaby.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Even when I was much younger, I am used to having music on most of the time. In my room in Sampaloc, when I was in high school thru college, I had a small stereo radio with a cassette player that sits near my bed. It played instrumental music or light jazz when I am studying (I avoid music that will cause me to break into a song or make me sing-along when I am reading for that will disturb my concentration), and soft mellow music when I am ready to sleep.

If I am not studying or sleeping, my music can range from folk, rock, country, pop, gospel, and OPM’s (to which I freely sing-along). The music will drown the noise from our street, and most of the time, I would fall asleep with the radio on. The radio playing did not bother me at all, in fact it lulled me to sleep, especially during nights when sleep did not come so easily.

I don’t sleep with the radio on anymore. I have to consider the one I’m sharing the bed with now. My wife is a light sleeper and she easily gets awakened with noises, and a radio on will not let her sleep at all. Too bad she has to sleep with the noise of my snoring though. However, there are still nights that I cannot turn off my mind, or I can become restless, and sleep will not come to me. On these occasions, I put my earphones with my i-Pod or i-Phone on, and listen to my favorite music that will transcend me to La La land.

For a very long time, it has been observed that music can affect human behavior. In Biblical times, it was recorded that King Saul would call for David to play him his harp to soothe his troubled spirit.

In more modern times, research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats resulting sharper concentration and more alert thinking, while a slower tempo promotes a calm, meditative state. Music therapy is a growing field in health care and had been used in pain management, children with Attention Deficit Disorder, and even in ICU to help pacify patients. For some reason music appears to calm my restless leg syndrome as good as medication.

Not too long ago, I heard a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” sang by this certain singer, that I really like. Then when we were in Hawaii several months ago, the tour guide mentioned this singer and I learned that he was from that island. He is Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (yes, that’s definitely an Hawaiian name).

It was sad though to learn that he passed away at an early age of 38, in 1997. He had health problems stemming from his weight, which at one point was more than 750 pounds. But that did not stop me from downloading his songs in my i-Phone. His “What a Wonderful World” is another favorite of mine, and he now sings me lullaby when I cannot sleep.

More recently, I heard from the radio a version of “Fields of Golds” that was an original song of Sting, who by the way is one of my favorite singers. But this specific rendition of the song captivated me, and so I looked for it and downloaded it also in my i-Phone.

I was intrigue why I have not heard of this female singer before, so I searched for her other songs in i-Tunes and I found most of them were really beautiful. Then I also found out that she had died back in 1996 from a malignant melanoma at such a young age of 33. Her name is Eva Cassidy.

What’s with me and dead singers? We’ll I guess I just like their songs, and it does not matter whether they are dead or alive. Eva Cassidy also now rocks me gently to sleep in my restless nights.

Here is Eva and Israel in their different versions of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Yes, both of them are really somewhere over there.

(videos from youtube)