Gallup, NM, December 15, 2011--Barbra Telynor has been playing the Irish harp for 25 years. A self-taught harper, she has worked as a hospital musician for more than 20 years. Telynor moved to Gallup earlier this year and together with Rev. Kris Pikaart, Chaplain at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services (RMCHCS), have recently begun a “healing music” program to help in providing comfort to RMCHCS hospital and hospice patients.
Telynor was ordained by the United Church of Christ and has served as pastoral minister of compassion through music for a group of churches in California. While still a student at San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, CA, she underwent a kidney transplant. The transplant kept her in good health for 23 years. She has been on kidney dialysis for the past eight years.
Since she had a very good match the first time, Telynor says she is not looking for another transplant. Thousands of people are looking for a match for their first transplant, and Telynor says she wants to give them the opportunity to find a good match. She is at peace with this decision and keeps her focus on quality of life rather than quantity of life.
Telynor’s own health challenges give her special empathy for patients. When playing, she does not necessarily talk about her own experience, unless it seems appropriate. “Mostly,” says Telynor, “patients sense at an intuitive level that I understand what they are going through.”
Playing for patients in hospice care or for those in a coma is especially meaningful for Telynor. She was in a coma for more than four days and had a near death experience. The experience completely changed her perspective on death and dying and has influenced her ethics and way of perceiving what is important in life. “Music seems to calm patients and provide comfort for those nearing death. Hearing is the last sense to go and that is why music can be so comforting.” says Telynor. Recently she played for a young woman who was dying. Her breathing was labored and erratic. As Telynor began to play, the patient’s breathing became more regular and the she seemed calm and at peace.
“This is the work of my heart,” says Telynor, whose last name is Welsh for one who plays the harp. While in California, Telynor also participated in a study on music in the hospital at a Dominican hospital in northern California. Twice a week she would play for people with heart problems. Her title was “harpist and midwife of the soul.” Following this, she was one of five hospital musicians at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA.
How did Telynor make her way to Gallup? After nearly a decade at Stanford Hospital, she began to feel restless. She loved her job, but found living in the Bay area becoming too expensive. One of her best friends lives in Gallup and they began talking about her moving here. It took about a year for everything to fall into place.
While in California, Telynor contacted Kris Pikaart to explore whether RMCHCS might be interested in a “healing music” program. Pikaart approached the RMCHCS administration and the RMCHCS Foundation about supporting such a service for patients. They agreed to support this on a part-time basis.
Since then, RMCHCS received a small grant from the Arts-in-Medicine Program at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM to help support the program. In addition to playing for patients, Telynor can be heard playing in one of the hospital lobbies. She has also started a monthly coffee break concert series that invites musicians from the community to play in the hospital lobby for 30 minutes during morning coffee break. This has been very much appreciated by patients and staff alike.
Telynor is extremely grateful to RMCHCS for giving her a place to live out the work of her heart. “The medical community has kept me alive for a long time and I want to give back,” says Telynor. “I feel like I am supposed to be here and the people at RMCHCS have been outrageously kind and gracious.”