Something about music has the ability to lift our spirits and heal our troubled minds.
Musician Sean K. Tiwanak relies on various melodies to get him through tough times. The native Hawaiian always has his ukulele handy and loves breaking into song wherever he goes — even in an intensive care unit in Los Angeles, California.
For the past 15 years, Sean has been living with viral cardiomyopathy, a heart disease that makes the muscle too weak to pump enough blood to his body. He was doing pretty well for over a decade, but he recently became critically ill and was moved to “high-priority” on the organ transplant list.
In August 2020, he finally got his new heart! Dr. Fardad Esmailian, the surgeon who performed his surgery, said his patient was “on the brink of basically dying” in the days leading up to the operation. But even that didn’t stop Sean from reaching for his instrument and comforting himself and others with the soothing sound of music.
In a short video that has since moved countless people, a doctor on the cardiac team at Cedars-Sinai hospital joins Sean at his bedside just two days before his transplant to sing “Stand By Me.” Dr. Lily Stern had heard him singing in the ward before, and as a musician herself, she decided it was time to join in.
“We just instantly started singing together,” Sean explained. “And when you do that, when you sing with somebody, you kind of create this little space that is sort of like a communion in a way. And it was awesome. And she’s so talented and sings so well that it just raised my spirits.”
Since the clip went viral, Sean has received well wishes and encouragement from strangers around the world! He underwent his surgery and is expected to make a full recovery in two to three months. Ultimately, he feels like he has a new lease on life!
“I know what it is to be blessed now,” he said. “Everything I do from here on out is a result of this wonderful gift.”
Sean is currently finishing up his fourth album, which he’s tentatively calling “Change of Heart.” He’s even including a special song for the health care workers who helped him, including Lily! As if that isn’t sweet enough, he’s naming the song “Angel.”
Watch the video below to see Sean and Lily in action, and don’t forget to share this story to encourage someone today.
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