For doctor Andrew Healy, the week began with a brutal 12-hour night at the Brampton Civic, one of the Toronto-area hospitals hit hardest by the third wave of epidemics.
More young people were coming with severe cases of COVID-19. Patients who could no longer breathe enough were being placed on ventilators. Before the tube went into his airway, a man talked with his daughters if he never woke up.
After grabbing an hour’s sleep, the 43-year-old Dr. Healy went straight to her day job, the head of emergency medicine for the local health system, and at the age of 13 made a call about Emily Vegas’ heart-wrenching case. COVID-19 died in Brampton on 22 April.
Through it all, Drs. Healy felt a presence in his favor. A few years ago, the music-loving doctor met veteran orchestra conductor Benjamin Zander. They struck up a friendship. Ever since, the Doctor has relied on Maestro’s inspirational words about love and leadership to pull him along.
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“Xander was with me all day today,” he recited after his innings. Mr. Xander returned the commendation. “I think we’re a team: a musician and a medical person. It’s a beautiful relationship. I’ll do anything for Andrew,” he says.
They make an unaffected duo – a white-haired master musician and a soft-spoken 40-year junior of science. 82-year-old Mr. Xander was born in England, the youngest of four children of a Jewish lawyer who fled to Hitler’s Germany before World War II. By the age of 9, he was composing music. He studied cello in Italy.
He came to the United States on a fellowship and in 1979 founded the Granthshala Philharmonic, an orchestra that unites professional, amateur, and student musicians. He started talking to corporate executives about leadership, wrote a bestselling book, Art of possibility, And gave a much-watched TED talk on the power of classical music.
Dr. Headley grew up in Grand Falls, Nefld. He took piano lessons, practiced playing an upright in the basement and organ in church. He considered becoming a priest, but opted for medicine instead.
He and his wife, Michelle, a teacher, have four children, ages 5 to 13. All of them play instruments. Dr. Healy sometimes plays with him on the piano. Their home in Toronto suburb Oakville is filled with music. When a 37-year-old woman and her three daughters were killed in a car accident in Brampton in June last year, the family demonstrated at a grand memorial.
It was through children that the two men came together. Dr. Hayley had watched the conductor’s popular coaching sessions online, written to him and taken the family to Granthshala to watch Mr. Xander’s performance – six trips he took there. He drew attention to how he trained more expressive performances from his students and how he put his orchestra through his paces and dodged. Now, when Drs. When Healie shakes her hands like a conductor, the children tell them to “stop zandering.” He particularly likes Mr. Gender’s urge to play “One-Buttock”. In the true sense, they say that it is not enough to rest on two.
Friendship grew from there. Dr. Healy drew a lesson from Mr. Gander’s conduct: sit in the front row of life; Look at the possibilities, not the obstacles; Cherish your mistakes; Clear your doubts; Find a way to get others to share your vision.
“Never doubt the ability of those people to realize what you are dreaming of,” Mr. Gender likes to say. Dr. Healy knows that with one heart. Now, he says, he tries to get his hospital team to lead “with Mozart’s love and Beethoven’s happiness”.
He also draws on the music of Mr. Xander. He once played a recording of a piece by his young orchestra – Edward Elgar Nimrod, One of the famous composers Crossword variations – To make it easier for a woman with terminal cancer to pass.
When Mr. Xander came to Toronto to give a talk, the doctor persuaded him to go to Oakville, where he coached young musicians and gave tips to a local amateur conductor. He told her that the musicians she leads must have “glowing eyes” – Dr. Another of Healy’s favorite Zanderism.
Subsequently, Doctor William Osler took his friend to talk to the leaders in the health system. Agile but firm, Mr. Xander leapt backwards to fill the empty space behind. He tells them what he calls self-serious musicians when that little voice in his head tells them they’re blowing it up: just say, “Thanks for sharing – I’m busy right now.” And then kept playing. Instead of calming themselves when they make a mistake, they should throw their arms up and say, “How charming.”
When the global health crisis arrived last spring, the example of conductor became even more important to Dr. Hayley. A few weeks into the epidemic, he e-mailed Mr. Xander, saying that playing Elgar’s piece helped him say goodbye to a family, from afar, to a fading relative – and to “make me feel alright” Helped because tears flowed after work. “
A year later, things are incredibly worse. Hospitals are struggling every day to find staff and space to care for all their patients. The doctor says, “We have a very burnt work force that they have asked to work with before.” “People need to know that you recognize that they are ready for it.” He has to find a way to get the best in the worst of circumstances.
He does not claim that he has found the secret. “I’ll try. I do. Difficult. But I fail every day. I fail so many times that my arms get tired of saying ‘how charming.’