Country music artist, Clay Walker, visited the Swedish MS Center last Tuesday, touring the clinic with medical director, James Bowen. Having been diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS 19 years ago, Clay was interested in learning more about comprehensive care for MS. After researching MS Centers around the country, Clay decided to visit a handful of centers that offer the best comprehensive programs.
Walker believes an emphasis on non-medical aspects of the disease could benefit patients. He was particularly interested in learning about the MS Center’s physical rehabilitation program and wellness offerings including, gym access with specialized equipment for MS patients, exercise training, Pilates, and Yoga. Walker was also eager to learn about the MS Center’s emotional wellness offerings including psychology, psychiatry, support groups, music and pet therapy, and the annual art show. Other areas covered during his tour were elements of community wellness including social work, vocational counseling, workshops on stress management, and social events such as the MS Center summer BBQ and winter seasonal celebration. These programs assist with keeping individuals with MS involved in the broader community.
The country star’s visit happened to coincide with one of the MS Center’s regularly scheduled music therapy sessions. As a musician he was excited to attend this meeting, during which, he played several of his songs. One of his most well-known songs, Live Until I Die, was used as an exercise by the group to come up with their own lyrics. Group members collaborated with Walker to create lyrics personalized to their childhood. After about fifteen minutes of word rhyming and brainstorming, the music therapy group sang along with Walker with the new words. Walker had to leave before the final verses were completed, but he promised to return to finish. Meanwhile, the music therapy group is hard at work to complete their own rendition of the song which they will sing for him upon his return to the MS Center. During his time with the music group, Walker spoke with members about his diagnosis and the effects on his musical performances. When singing on stage, Walker said, he does not feel his symptoms. For those moments, it feels as though he does not have MS. The group nodded in understanding as they are all aware of the physical and psychological effects of music therapy.
Walker has been quite open to the public about his diagnosis and the effect it has had on his busy career. Like many people living with MS, symptoms began to affect Walker in his mid-20s. He was diagnosed in 1996, three years after recording his first album. Walker kept moving and has since recorded more than 10 No. 1 country hits. In 2003, Walker formed a nonprofit charity called Band Against MS (BAMS). The organization is committed to providing educational information for those living with multiple sclerosis and funding programs researching a cure for MS. To read more about his foundation visit http://www.bandagainstms.org/.
You can also click here to watch a video filmed during Clay's tour of the MS Center.