Hospital Jams: The music that provided solace and motivation on our writer’s road to recovery

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photo courtesy of John Morrison

On March 2nd,  I sat in my bedroom talking with my partner Melissa. We both knew something was seriously wrong. For days, I had been suffering from an unruly headache, fatigue and flu-like symptoms. The scariest development was a sudden impairment in my ability to form sentences and speak. Testing me, Melissa asked me if I was excited to catch the premiere episode of Atlanta (it aired the night before). “Tell me about the show” she asked. I struggled. I tried to sound thoughtful and articulate my thoughts about how the show plays with non-linear narrative structure and surreal/absurdist humor. What came out of my mouth pretty much amounted to a barely-coherent mush. “We should go to the hospital,” she said. I agreed reluctantly. As we got up and made our way down the hallway, I detoured to the bathroom, vomiting, the violent force throwing me to the ground. The next thing I know, I was being placed in an ambulance and transported to the Hospital of the University of Penn.

The next two weeks were a jumbled mess of tubes, needles and INTENSE hallucinations. Much of the time between March 2nd and March 13th is unclear to me. The entire experience is either “augmented” by cartoonish hallucinations, or completely missing from my memory. I beatboxed and made up songs, imagined that the doctors were hatching elaborate conspiracies against me, saw and held conversations with friends who weren’t there. I had been diagnosed with a mycoplasmic infection that caused viral encephalitis, which essentially translates to inflammation on the brain. Basically, I had randomly caught a virus that attacked my brain and spine. After weeks of laying in the hospital, one of my lungs collapsed, I developed a blood clot and had lost the ability to walk.

Throughout this ordeal, I’ve had a few comforts. My mom, Jackie has been an indefatigable source of support and inspiration. She’s pretty much been camped out with me since I was first hospitalized. I’ve watched her push the limits of her own body and mind to help me heal and cope with this life-altering series of events. Along with Melissa, my Mother has cried with me, laughed with me, prayed with me and I’m certain that without the help of these Women, I doubt I would have survived.

Along with the love and comfort I received from my family, my partner, friends and comrades, through this ordeal, I’ve been finding solace in music. On Monday, April 2nd, I was transferred from the hospital to Good Shepherd Rehab Facility in South Philly. Much of my day is spent undergoing intensive physical therapy designed to strengthen my muscles, legs and ultimately relearn how to walk. Trying to occupy the long days, I’ve spent my downtime watching junk TV, visiting with friends and family and listening to music. My fam was kind enough to bring me my laptop. I’ve scrolled through Spotify, Youtube, FB, Twitter and my own personal music library to find songs that gave me solace, the same as I have my entire life. Music for when I’m sad, music to motivate me through the hours of exhausting physical therapy.

This playlist features some of the stuff I’ve been listening to for the past month or so. It’s a bit all over the place genre and mood-wise, an accurate reflection of the scattered way that I absorb music. Ranging from nostalgic favorites (Bahamadia’s “Spontaneity” and Mazarin’s “For Energy Infinite”) to staples in my DJ sets (Fela Kuti & Roy Ayers’ “Africa Centre of the World”), the songs on this playlist have been with me through this experience that has changed me profoundly.

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