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With a Heart of Gold: Connor’s Story

At just thirteen years old, Connor is known for his compassion. He loves bonding with others, discovering new places, and meeting new friends.

“Connor has a heart of gold,” his dad, Steven, often says.

That heart of gold was on full display this past year. After enduring a debilitating brain bleed, it would have been easy for Connor to focus purely on himself. Instead, Connor turned his care and compassion outward, seeking ways to connect with others.

JoyRx Music helped him find a place to connect and allowed him to share the healing power of music with others, too.

When the Scary Moments Come

Connor’s medical journey began almost five years ago. It was out of the blue and started with what Connor describes as “the worst headache of his life.”

Doctors quickly discovered that the cause of the headache was a brain bleed. Connor spent two weeks in the PICU at Randall Children’s Hospital, and at that time, doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause of his condition.

In November of 2022, Connor had another brain bleed, and a scan revealed a terrifying discovery: a brain tumor.

While the tumor itself was benign, it still had repercussions for Connor and left his parents wondering about long-term effects. It impacted his speech, coordination, and short-term memory, leaving him only able to remember about five seconds at a time.

“You could give him a short description of something, and by the end of the first few sentences, he’d forgotten what you were talking about,” said his dad.

“Those were very dark times for all of us,” Mayte, Connor’s mother, agreed.

When Music Reaches the Heart

During one of Connor’s inpatient stays, his dad was having an emotional moment and stepped into the hallway, where he saw a JoyRx music cart.

“I shed many tears as I was walking down the hallway — and there was a woman at the JoyRx cart,” he said. That woman was JoyRx Music Specialist Jean, someone the family would come to know well.

Steven quickly explained his son’s condition to Jean, and as tears welled in Jean’s eyes, she assured him they’d be in to play for Connor.

Soon, she and JoyRx Music Specialist Cristina arrived in Connor’s hospital room, and the music they played felt magical to Steven and Mayte.

“I don’t know if I’m just remembering it this way or not,” Steven said, “but in my memory, he lit up as he heard the music — you could tell it was helping him.”

The Healing Power of Music

The JoyRx Music team visited Connor often. They even let him borrow a lap piano to play on his own. It was a rewarding way for Connor to practice his coordination and an excellent way for his care team to gauge progress.

It was small at first, just hitting keys close to the memory of a song — but it left his parents in tears.

The JoyRx Music team kept coming back. And while Connor was still struggling with his short-term memory, he would remember the music specialists he met — and that small detail meant the world to Steven and Mayte.

“It concreted for us that music is medicine,” said Steven. “I credit music as helping him heal. It helped him get better. His soul got better. He loves playing music and loves playing for people — and JoyRx Music helped him.”

Paying Joy Forward

In January, just before being discharged, Connor wanted to thank the staff who helped him during his recovery. He suggested a mini concert in the hospital alongside the JoyRx Music staff. You can read that inspiring story here.

In April and May, when Connor suffered another brain bleed and underwent a major surgery to resect a large portion of his tumor, JoyRx Music played a huge part in his stays, therapy, and recovery. Over those seven weeks in the hospital, JoyRx Music visited with Connor and inspired him to play piano in the hospital lobby whenever he could.

Then, in August, Connor played music for children, guests, and staff at Randall Children’s Hospital with his sister, Tess, as another act of paying Joy forward.

Connor brought Joy through his performances. People would come over to stand by to listen. Others would applaud whenever he finished a song. A few even gave him a standing ovation!

A Heart of Gold

Today, Connor is recovering. It’s a long road, but he’s taking it one step at a time — with an open heart and a desire to help others.

Mayte and Steven give JoyRx much credit for their son’s improvement.

“It made us know we could do this,” Steven said. “It gave us hope and encouragement.”

“I would one hundred percent recommend JoyRx for any family,” Mayte agreed. “I would one hundred percent advocate for anyone to use the music program. It’s amazing. It made a big difference in our son’s journey and recovery. It helped us appreciate music even more, too. We already loved music, but even more now. I told Connor, ‘Hey when you get older if you want, you can play music for people who need it. In the hospital, at the old folks’ home, wherever.’ Music is life and lights him up; he helps light others up, too. That’s what JoyRx gave my son.”

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