Dave (not his real name) was a patient whose severe stroke had caused him to lose the use of all four limbs, and his speech. We had seen him and played to him a couple of times, with what we thought was very little response, but the staff said he was loving it (we have many examples of staff recognising a reaction we haven’t picked up on in people we don’t know).
On this occasion we were told by a staff member that Dave is very good at communicating Yes and No, and can spell out words, using his eyes. Wanting to play Dave something from his youth, I began playing Hotel California, which I thought he was bound to know. Before I got more than three chords into the introduction he was beaming with recognition, and when we got to the chorus his mouth was moving and he was clearly doing his best to sing along. When we’d finished Dave tried to speak but I couldn’t make out what he was saying, so I asked him to spell it out. H – O – R – S …horse? Horse With No Name? Yes! I’ve never learned the song but knew it well enough to “blag it” and Dave seemed very pleased. The next time we went there I had the chords and words with me to do it properly for him.
The last time we saw Dave, he had family visiting and we had not approached, but before we began to play, I overheard that he was spelling out “horse”. His family seemed confused by this, but I knew he was requesting his song, so we sang it again, with his family joining in. Dave and his family were all delighted with this shared activity and special moment of reminiscence and connectedness.

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