Faces of Music Care Part 6: Jason Crigler and family

by Bev Foster

We have defined Music Care as a term used to describe the use of music as a means of caring in the context of community. We have already seen that Music Care encompasses many expressions. While this series aims to highlight contexts and means in Canada, this compelling story took place in Massachusetts. I want to include Jason Crigler as a face of Music Care because his story demonstrates that the role of family in caring contexts is critical. This is the story of a man who defies the odds, but as you unpack it, it is truly about a family who never gave up hope, loved and loved again. In August 2004, 34-year old Jason Crigler was playing his guitar onstage at a Manhattan night club when he had a stroke. He threw down his guitar and jumped off the stage and was rushed by ambulance to St. Vincent’s Hospital. The prognosis did not look good. If Jason lived through the night, he would have little brain function left. The family was told that the old Jason would probably never return to them as they had once known him. Jason defied the odds. Today, he is back playing music and speaks publicly about his medical journey. He credits music, fatherhood and his family’s enduring and relentless faith in his recovery as the key forces which have given him back his autonomy. Jason encountered a number of medical complications like infections, seizures, meningitis. He was in a coma for some time. But it was Jason’s family – his wife, sister, parents and in-laws – that stuck with him, helping him with the daily tasks, playing him music, reading him newspapers. The Crigler family stayed open and visualized Jason healthy and walking again. And they encouraged Jason to do the same. In February 2005, the family moved to Boston and Jason spent 6 months as an inpatient at the Spaulding Rehab Centre. Doctors and psychologists there didn’t hold out much hope for Jason, who entered Spaulding in a vegetative state. But the family worked with health care providers and instead of releasing Jason to a nursing home, the Criglers took Jason home. They knew that his brain was resilient and provided him with a stimulating environment. This helped Jason rebuild familiar connections and boost his memory. They had a mindset that Jason could and would recover. While not every story of brain injury has this kind of ending, music was foundational in Jason’s recovery. Jason says: “It was a huge motivator. It had been my profession, the thing I loved to do. I was hell bent to get it back. I was determined to not have that taken away from me. Having that motivation, something that you want to get back to, something you want, it’s a huge thing in terms of the body’s ability to recover. Music had a powerful impact on my memory returning.” Jason’s recovery is the subject of a film called Life.Support. Music. For more information on Jason Crigler, visit www.jasoncriglermusic.com, or www.defyingtheodds.net Room 217 Foundation is always pleased to share stories of Music Care.  For more stories of care, check out our website at www.room217.ca