“Postoperative Singing”

John Diamond, M.D.

Extract from the book 
Singing and Surgery: Waking Up with a Song

Singing and Surgery book cover


I have had three previous experiences of postoperative singing.

The first was many years ago, when I woke up—oxygen mask still on—singing Irish folk songs because I had somehow heard the Irish accent of the nurse.

The next episode was in a Viennese hospital, when I found myself waking up singing German folk songs.

Then last year, with a similar procedure to today’s, I woke up exclaiming over and over, “Beethoven is here! Beethoven is here!” And I sang part of his Consecration of the House Overture, Op. 124, a work I love.

I told this story to a friend who was to have the same operation as I did. And when he started to wake up, he was singing, over and over, “K-K-K-Katy” because he had learned, pre-op, that his nurse’s name was Katie.

All this leads me to believe that we may be able to program ourselves for the music we sing post-op. Of course, it may not happen, but the possibility is there. We now need to learn how best to encourage it, for it would obviously be beneficial.

I wonder whether I was, in fact, singing in my unconscious throughout the operation, and it occurs to me that it would be quite simple to record a patient before the surgery and play back his singing during the procedure. There’s a wonderful world to explore with music and surgery: many possibilities.

Here’s a wild suggestion. I learn that some people when healthy have their blood taken and kept in storage for any future catastrophe (preferring, of course, to receive back their own blood rather than that of a stranger). What if they also made recordings of their singing to be played back to them if they ever needed emergency surgery?