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Music therapy helps Royal Papworth patient in his recovery

For Will Matthews, a patient recovering from a stroke and open heart surgery at the Royal Papworth Hospital, an act of kindness on the wards has given him new hope.

Bass player Will Matthews with his therapist, Amil, at Papworth
Bass player Will Matthews with his therapist, Amil, at Papworth

An inpatient at the Cambridge hospital since July, Will has been enjoying impromptu jam sessions with his occupational therapist, Amil Magpantay, and playing bass in his room.

Will is a semi-professional musician from a very musical family – his brother is a member of The London Essentials, who have performed for, among others, Prince Charles and George Clooney.

Will said: “For me, one of the great joys of life is playing music. My mum’s a professional keyboard player, my dad was a professional trumpet player – he died while I was in hospital, unfortunately.”

The 54-year-old continued: “So I just needed to know if the connection to my brain was still there.

“I mentioned this to Amil and he instantly – and very, very kindly – brought me a bass guitar and an amp. He brought his guitar along and we had a jam in one of the rooms here.

“It was very low volume; we didn’t want to disturb anybody else – and that sense of relief went through me that the connection was all still there.”

Will, a teacher at Radley College in Oxford who recently became a father, has nothing but praise for Amil, who has even left his bass guitar in Will’s room for him to play.

“Without Amil’s help, my state of mind would have been very different,” said Will. “Also, musical instruments are very personal things. Lending somebody an instrument is not something we do a lot as musicians.

“I can’t thank Amil enough because that was above and beyond, and also incredibly trusting. I wasn’t expecting it at all so I’m deeply grateful to him for doing that.”

Will, who says he can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, has undergone open-heart surgery.

“Thanks to Royal Papworth and my surgeon, Ravi De Silva, I am well on the way to being released and starting a new chapter in my life,” he said. “I set to rise owe Ravi and Papworth my life and my words cannot do this man or this institution justice.”

Amil said: “Knowing the story and the frustration of being in hospital for quite some time – and knowing how active he was – I just thought, ‘What can be done for him?’ I kept thinking about it and thought we should celebrate the fact that he can still use his hand.

“I lent him the bass guitar and an amplifier, and it was more for a celebration that there’s not an extensive problem in his hand. There are some problems but it’s not too bad, and it’s also for his wellbeing.”

Amil, who plays in a band, says the pair have jammed together when they can – about three or four times so far.

On the type of songs they’ve been playing, Amil said: “Anything really... He’s a very good musician, so anything that he likes. He’ll sometimes say to me, ‘Do you know this song?’ and I don’t know much about it, but I have some electric drums as well so I’ll just play on the beat.”

Amil added: “I’m happy that his wellbeing is maintained and I wish we could do more.”

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