Drum up support for stroke therapy

editorial image

Blogger Trish Burgess writes for the Free Press

“Is that Quincy Jones on the next table?”

“No it looks nothing like him.”

“But it must be!”

“It isn’t!”

“I’m going to ask him.”

This exchange took place in a hotel in Sweden a couple of years ago. We knew the famous record producer was staying at our hotel in Ystad and was guest of honour at the jazz festival which happened to be on while we were visiting.

The cool American guy talking passionately about music to a friend must surely be Quincy. I did ask him, much to Dougie and Rory’s embarrassment. The answer was no but he was eager to chat to us so we were invited to draw up a chair and join him.

Who was he? Jazz drummer Ronnie Gardiner, who had played with all the greats – Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Carter and Dexter Gordon. Ronnie, now in his 80s, was a bright, engaging character and was delighted to discover our son, Rory, was also a drummer. It was when he realised my husband was a doctor, however, that the conversation shifted to more medical matters.

Ronnie told us about the pioneering work he had been doing since 1980, using the skills needed to play the drums to develop a technique for rehabilitating patients with brain injuries. He had realised that when drumming each arm and leg has to work independently, requiring interaction between the brain’s various centres in terms of coordination, motor skills and memory. Following much research into this, he created a multisensory technique called the Ronnie Gardiner Method.

To show us what he meant, Ronnie began to tap his feet and slap his hands on the table, whilst shouting out a specific sound for each limb. We joined in. Rory, being a drummer, had far more success than his father and me who were slow to pick up the pattern: it was rather like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.

Research on the Ronnie Gardiner Method began in Sweden but is now being picked up worldwide. There has been success with stroke patients and those suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Ronnie recounted the story of a woman who, following a stroke, had one wish: to be able to dance again.

After some sessions to stimulate the brain to send the right signals to her limbs, she surprised everyone at a family gathering when her husband held her close and they danced together.

May is the National Stroke Awareness Month, so this chance encounter we had with Ronnie Gardiner is fresh in my mind. If anyone is interested in being trained to deliver the Ronnie Gardiner Method, I know the UK branch are always keen to spread the word.

There are courses being run in London during May and the method will be shown at the UK’s Stroke Assembly in Nottingham in June. For details see www.rgminternational.com

Follow Trish’s blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com