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San Diego Nurse Creates Songs Of Hope For Trauma Patients


Aired 5/21/10

A San Diego trauma nurse sings original songs for his patients at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Many are in comas or sedated, but Rod Salasay believes they can all hear him. KPBS associate producer Sarah Gonzalez spoke with some of the people who know his music best, at the surgical intensive care unit.

A San Diego trauma nurse sings original songs for his patients at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla. Many are in comas or sedated, but Rod Salasay believes they can all hear him.

"...You told me this is the story of the fight for my life. They say I'm hanging by a thread, and I don't even have a chance..."

Ashley Benedict is a former patient of Rod Salasay.

"A car hit me and I flew 15 feet in the air and landed on my head and part of my skull came out and I was in a coma for like 20 something days and on life support for 57," she recalls.

"…I'm leaving all my blues behind…"

"I remember one time he walked into my room and he was like holding something behind his back and then he's like 'Ashley are you ready for something,' and it's his guitar and he's like 'I made a song for you' and he starts singing it and it was really amazing."

"…You once had to save the life of a man…"

Mike Benedict is Ashley's dad. "Rod means a lot he wrote this song called you can make it back," Benedict says.

"…Your father, a soft spoken kind of man. He had tears in his eyes. The baby, the one you held so tight, has to fight for her life…"

"She was hooked up to all these machines that were keeping her alive and you know we were so afraid that she was going to die, and to have this man that would sing these beautiful songs was just one of the most touching experiences of my life," Ashley's father says. "It was just like…hope."

"…I will make sure, you can make it back…"

Salasay agrees. "There is hope. My name is Rod Salasay and I work as a registered nurse at the trauma unit in the surgical ICU. I've been there for six years now. Through music I instill in their minds that 'hey, this is possible, don't give up.' There is tomorrow."

"He really holds a special place in my heart and he helps so many people everyday," Ashley says. "I'm so grateful for him. It just inspires me and it reminds me just don't give up no matter what. Never give up. I can walk now like with someone standing near me, and now I want to become a nurse, like a trauma nurse because of Rod."

Linda Wagner works with Salasay.

"What he does for us when he plays music, it changes the atmosphere for us because it's so terribly sad sometimes. He sings while he is on the clock. If we're lucky he brings his guitar to work and strolls from room to room and sings whatever requests he gets," says Wagner.

"…I'll be here all the time…"

Salasay began singing to his patients three years ago. "It all started when I had a patient three years ago. Severe trauma, head injury. I started doodling on a piece of paper. I felt so sorry for him and what does this guy want to tell his mother if he could talk. And I though it was a poem at first and then, wow, it could be a song."

"…And if the silence means you're peaceful in a dream, you've taken shelter from the misery…"

"I want to be able to affect other people's lives. For me that's going to complete my life if I'm going to be able to do that to a few families," says Salasay.

"…Suddenly awake, new memories to make. Close by your side as you begin to heal…"

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