Heartbeats Made into Music as Keepsake

Family receives recording of baby's heartbeat before and after life-saving transplant

When you lose someone close, many treasure photographs, movies and memories. Cleveland Clinic’s Arts and Medicine Institute has been giving families a unique keepsake: the sound of their loved one’s heartbeat as music.

To record the heartbeat, Music Therapist Christine Bomberger uses a special stethoscope. It’s cut so only the chest piece and a couple of inches of tubing remain. A lapel microphone is then inserted into the tubing, which picks up the sound that comes into the chest piece and is then transferred onto a program on an iPad.

Christine then edits and loops the heartbeat, setting it to music, which families can select, or she adds soft guitar music along with the tempo of the heartbeat.

So far, Christine has completed four records. Three were for the families of patients who were at the end of their life.

“Sometimes, patients are really young,” says Christine. “Perhaps they haven’t had the time to go home, make memories and take photographs. The families are so grateful for this gift — allowing them to celebrate their legacy and cherish this memory.”

The third recording wasn’t for a patient at the end of his life, but for baby Nikolas, who received a heart transplant, and is doing well.

Christine recorded the baby’s original heart. Fast forward a few months after a successful surgery, and she recorded the transplanted heart. Both recordings were placed on a CD and gifted to the family.

“I couldn’t believe the heart recordings; they were beautiful,” says Karina, Nikolas’s mother. “You can hear a big difference between pre and post-transplant recordings. When Nikolas grows up, I’ll let him listen to his heartbeat, and I’m sure he’ll be amazed.”