• Karl Thunemann

The Healing Power of the Flute

by Dick Kite


In 2002 I was walking up the hill from our condo at 6001 Village in Redmond, WA when I had to stop to catch my breath wondering at the pain I was experiencing in my chest. In that I had an appointment with my GP in two days, I determined that I would just take it easy for a couple of days and get his opinion at that time. I did wait—and soon after the appointment found myself taking a stress test.  I flunked it: three small veins on my heart were clogged and needed attention.

Two days later I was in the hospital for a balloon angioplasty procedure. It was not successful. I flunked again:  It reminded me of my efforts to learn Greek and Contemporary Theology; “nice try, but no cigar.” Well, it just so happened that the heart surgeon was in the hospital and was called into my room where he said he had an opening for surgery “tomorrow”: A triple bypass was in order. Wow, that soon!? It was too soon for me, and some members of my family. The next available date was two weeks out. Feeling the need to prepare myself a little better, I chose that day.


A very good friend brought me the flute I had gifted to him and had crafted myself. I began to use it. My wife noted that each time I picked it up, my spirit and my recovery improved. … At one point, some of the patients down the hall were heard asking why they could not have that kind of music in their rooms.

The day arrived much faster than I thought it would. I went into the hospital at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. And I had company: My wife, my son, and his wife, one of my daughters and her husband, my stepdaughter, and a good friend, all came to see me into surgery. I remember saying goodbye before going into the operating room … that was all until I came out of the anesthetic fog. I was told that there was a lot of moaning and groaning coming from my bed as the very well-trained recovery nurses brought me back to some semblance of awareness.

The move from ICU to the general population of the hospital included a night that will not be reiterated here.  Once moved into my own private recovery room, I was handed a spirometer to help my lungs recover their important functions. I soon wearied of using it and asked for one of my Native American style flutes.

A very good friend brought me the flute I had gifted to him and had crafted myself. I began to use it. My wife noted that each time I picked it up, my spirit and my recovery improved. The time I spent using it increased. At one point, some of the patients down the hall were heard asking why they could not have that kind of music in their rooms. Taking my cue from that, I continued to use the flute for the sake of my lungs, my spirit, and my floor mates. Recovery seemed slow, but once I got home, I found that the stairs connecting my bedroom with the living room and kitchen were not the problem we had feared. I was able to negotiate them the same day I came home. Soon I heard the physical and occupational therapists say that I was weeks ahead of what they were there to do for me. So, it was goodbye to them.



Dick Kite with his flute, photo by Carol Kite

As I continued playing, I was heartened to see more positive results. Soon I would be able to take training to be a volunteer worker at Evergreen Hospital and Evergreen Hospice. My reasoning was that if it helped me, it might help others in recovery, or at least, comfort the patients, visitors, and staff. My reasoning proved to be right! Through the years, many people have commented on how important my visits with my flute had become to them. When I was invited to play for patients in their rooms, most of them were soothed, even if they were asleep, as were their gathered families.

I have been asked to accompany families as they have gathered to transport their loved ones out of hospice to the mortuary. I have been asked to play at graveside committal services. The power of this simple instrument, with its complex, yet natural sound, is evident. It has been good for my soul as well. Unfortunately, with the pandemic upon us, all hospice volunteer work has been suspended. I still find opportunities to play at Silver Glen, the senior residential where we live. The deck of our apartment overlooks the walking path that surrounds our property. It makes a good stage for our neighbors, walkers, and the birds, squirrels, and rabbits. I even lulled a small rabbit to sleep while playing on the trail.

My experience is not unique. The flute’s soothing power has made increasingly popular in medical facilities as a holistic tool for helping the patients. It helps in respiratory problems, decreases blood pressure, and helps stabilize the heart rate. Research has shown further physical benefits.

In my next post, I will report further on my adventures in the world of the flute and its marvelous healing powers.

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