A little Christmas music

Man with cerebral palsy hopes to find new movement in the piano

Blaine and Nancy Nester

The healing power of music is hopefully about to make a big difference in the life of a Kimberley man. Bulletin readers may remember Chris Green, who is severely afflicted with cerebral palsy. Last year, Green was overwhelmed with support as he fundraised for wheelchair upgrades which improved his mobility greatly, and allowed him to get around Kimberley’s hilly terrain more easily.

Through that process, Green met local pianist Arne Sahlen, and now the two are going to embark on a journey to see what kind of improved function in his hands Chris can gain by playing piano.

“This really is uncharted territory Arnie and I are going to explore. Recent research has shown that a person who loses mobility in an accident may regain  some or all of what was lost, if they persist in attempting the movement they want to improve. This is because the brain creates new neurological pathways to replace the damaged ones, essentially rewiring the connections.

“As far as I’m aware, this has never been attempted before with Cerebral Palsy. I can’t walk, and because of surgical changes to my anatomy even if my brain were to be capable of it, my anatomy won’t take the weight so I never will. My hope however is that the repetitive and fairly complex movements needed to play the piano will, with a lot of help from Arne, and countless hours of practice, improve function in my hands greatly. In a way this piano will be therapeutic as well as a source of joy.”

“Though totally bedridden, Chris has some mobility in his hands,” Arne said. “Whatever he can learn and do on the keyboard will be fascinating, and we are eager to see if it will affect his overall co-ordination. We are not ‘teacher and student’ but patient partners exploring a challenging frontier.”

Green and Sahlen both come from what they describe as intensely musical families and are eager to get going. Step one was finding a piano, which they did, in Invermere. Sahlen even went to “vet” the piano to make sure it would suit. The next step was getting it to Kimberley, which proved simpler than they thought when the seller volunteered to deliver it. With the help of some neighbours, the piano is now in Chris’s apartment at Gatehouse Gardens.

And now Arne and Chris are ready to begin to see what they can do to develop Chris’s brain to body focus and stamina.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” Sahlen said.