UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital brings music to patients

UCSF Benioff music therapist Rebecca Hines plays for the Fernandez family

Many babies who are born prematurely spend extra time in the hospital. But what happens when a baby is born more than three months early? In the case of Avah Fernandez, who earned “micro-preemie” status when she was born only 1 pound and 2 ounces at 23 weeks, that meant spending a year hospitalized, receiving care and support in a variety of ways. 

When Avah was born in November 2022, she had just a 30% chance of life. A year later, thanks to her care team, she is 12 times her original size and getting healthier every day after overcoming complications and multiple surgeries.

The care Avah has received was made possible through Giving Tuesday donations made to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Giving Tuesday, celebrated annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, is recognized as a global day of giving. Thanks to those proceeds, UCSF Benioff was able to fund Avah’s medical care, lodging support, and clothes, toys and books.

They were also able to fund music therapy provided by Rebecca Hames, UCSF Benioff’s board-certified music therapist.

Hames, who has been working as a music therapist for 10 years, has been soothing patients through music at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals for the last year. When working with Avah, she matches the pace of the songs she sings and plays on guitar to the rhythm of Avah’s breathing and the speed at which she sucks on her pacifier, aiming to relax her enough to drift off to sleep.

It’s health care professionals like Hames, and the doctors and nurses who cared for Avah, who have helped Ava’s parents Clara and Mario find relief and comfort as their daughter grows into a healthy, happy and feisty six-month-old. Meet Avah’s care team here.