We like to talk abstractly about the healing power of music, as if it contained supernatural powers that science could never explain. Sure, few other things can change moods and improve your outlook on life compared to music and without downstream repercussions like other alternatives. But can it really save a life?
On July 17, 1997, 46-year-old Debra Diehl was driving her pickup truck on the Pyramid Highway north of Reno, Nevada when the truck left the carriageway and overturned, ejecting her 7-year-old daughter Tamra Diehl from the truck. Tamra sustained severe head injuries in the accident and was transported to Washoe Medical Center where she went into a coma. Her mother was initially charged with drunk driving, of which she pleaded innocent in the initial court proceedings.
For three weeks, young Tamra Diehl remained in a coma in the hospital with no signs of life, with doctors worried that she might never recover. Profiles and news about Tamra have gripped the local community in Reno and beyond, with people worried about Tamra and assuming her mother may have caused the tragedy due to her influence.
Tamra’s favorite singer happened to be LeAnn Rimes, and her favorite song was “Blue”, which had been released the year before. Originally written and recorded by longtime songwriter and DJ Bill Mack in 1958, when LeAnn Rimes recorded the song, it sounded like Patsy Cline’s second coming. LeAnn’s “Blue” awakened people’s charms in classic country and, although it only made it to number 10 on the Billboard Country Songs chart, it ultimately won both the CMA and ACM Song of the Year in 1996, as well as the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. And that’s not all she did.
While in Reno on a show, 14-year-old LeAnn Rimes learned about what had happened to Tamra Diehl, and that she was the girl’s favorite singer and that “Blue” was her favorite song. Rimes decided to visit her on August 6, 1997, 25 years ago today. Kneeling next to Tamra’s hospital bed where she was still in a coma, LeAnn Rimes sang an a cappella version of “Blue” and, as reported in personal accounts, the young girl fidgeted in her bed and her eyelids. she started banging.
According to Tamra’s mother, these were the first signs of life Tamra had made since the accident, and it was the time when the little girl began to come out of the coma. By August 20, Tamra was awake, alert and smiling. The girl didn’t remember LeAnn Rimes singing to her, but she was thrilled to hear it after it happened.
“She gets a big smile on her face. She laughs and all, “ his mother Debra Diehl said at the time. “She started coming out of a coma from that day LeAnn Rimes came here. We are very grateful to you ”.
It may have been a coincidence, but it is a coincidence that has happened numerous times with music and with those who have suffered from stroke or coma. A 7-year-old British girl had a similar experience in 2012 after Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” was played for her. She thinks it’s a miracle, but there is actually some science behind the phenomenon as well, and it’s similar to why those who stutter or lose the ability to speak can sometimes still sing.
The left side of the brain controls language, while the right side processes songs and music. So even if one side is damaged or recovering, the other side can still work. Additionally, a stimulus such as someone’s favorite song can have a greater impact than other stimuli for patients suffering from brain trauma.
“Whenever memories have an emotional context, they tend to hold much more power in the brain and tend to be processed differently,” says Cleveland Clinic director of the Neurological Intensive Care Unit, Dr. Javier Provencio.
Maybe 7-year-old Tamra Diehl would eventually wake up alone. Maybe she never would. But the story is about both the physical and spiritual power of music, and in particular LeAnn Rimes’s “Blue”.
That same year, with Tamra Diehl mostly healed, her mother Debra pleaded clean, pleading guilty to drunk driving and causing the accident.