When does the music happen?

Sep 30, 2019


Rico Fernandez found more than just a job at Adventist Health Selma. He found a work environment that encouraged him to freely express his love for God and his passion for music.

Rico provides desktop support to the clinical staff at the hospital. One day he overheard staff discussing concerns about a patient who seemed to be growing more agitated and confused as the days passed. They were worried and were looking for a way to comfort her.

Rico asked Jennifer Gomez, RN, “Do you think music would help?”

Rico is a musician who plays the saxophone and the Irish flute — he calls it a “tin” flute — among other instruments, in his church. His instruments were in his car and he wondered if their patient would enjoy hearing him play. Jennifer agreed it would be worth a try.

The patient and her husband didn’t speak English, so their son translated the request for his father, who agreed to let Rico play for her. He ran to his car to get his instruments.

Rico began by playing “Amazing Grace” for the woman. She gradually became calmer. He moved on to “Bless the Lord,” and after a few more songs she was resting easily.

“He was so happy to do it,” Yolanda Andrews, RN, says. “He even prayed with her.”

As the notes drifted down the hall, other patients began searching for the source of the music, asking if Rico could play for them. “He played for at least three more patients,” Jennifer recalls.

Rico has been playing music for more than 30 years. When he was a youth living in Southern California, he and his brother would take their instruments to skid row in downtown Los Angeles and play for the homeless. He says he has found music can almost always break through the toughest exteriors.

On that day, however, he says he just wanted to try to help the patient relax.

“I could hear her making sounds like she was in pain. I felt concern for the family and wanted

to help,” Rico says. “I like that we’re encouraged to pray at work, and I’m glad that her husband said I could pray with her,”

In the days that followed, Jennifer says, patients would come to the nurses’ station and ask the staff, “What time does the music happen?”