CVC’s ‘piano man’ has patients feeling all right

October 28, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Every weekday around 1:30 p.m., Errick Thomas sits down at the grand piano in the Frankel Cardiovascular Center, takes a deep breath and plays whatever comes to mind. college essay writing service

“Music is therapeutic for me; it acts as a release. But most of all, I think it’s therapeutic for our patients,” Errick said.

It is that dedication to the patient experience that motivates Errick and helps him thrive as a patient services associate at UMHS. Errick helps patients check in and out, grabs them a wheelchair if they need it and assists physicians with clerical work such as scheduling appointments.

“My overall duty is to put patients first, whether it’s getting them a cup of coffee, a cup of water or playing them a song,” Errick said. “I’ll do anything to show we’re appreciative that they chose UMHS.”

“Anything” in this case means giving up his lunch break every afternoon to sit at the piano and entertain those who pass by. “I can eat after work,” Errick said. “I’d rather be out there when our patient population is the highest. That’s how I can make a difference.”

Still learning his craft

Errick has only been playing the piano for nearly four years, having never taken formal lessons or training.

“I’ve always enjoyed classical music, even as I was growing up,” Errick said. “But my focus and my family’s focus was on athletics, so I never pursued it.”

Errick ran track and played football in high school, eventually going to the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff to run on the track team.

After more than two years at Pine Bluff, family circumstances brought him back home to Michigan.

He ended up getting a temporary job at another health care facility in Ann Arbor, where there was a grand piano.

“I just sat down one day and started playing,” Errick said. “And it came so easily to me. I went home, watched YouTube and looked things up on Google. That’s how it all started.”

When he came to UMHS nearly two years ago, first as a temp in the genetics department and now in a full-time role at CVC, he started to look into playing for patients.

He talked to staff members in the Mardigian Wellness Center at CVC, where a representative listened to him play and gave him permission to perform whenever he was available. He’s been a fixture at the piano for the past two months — and he’s getting noticed.

“You can hear the beautiful music from all the way down the hall,” said Lois Waitkins, a patient at CVC who stopped by to listen to Errick earlier this week. “The second I heard him play, I could tell it just came from the heart. He has a gift that not a lot of people have.”

Errick said he hears that sort of feedback often.

“I’ve had patients tell me that hearing this music warms their spirit. They may say, ‘I was having a rough afternoon, but I became so caught up in the music that it took me to a better place.’ That type of encouragement lifts me up.”

‘I was finally on the inside looking out’

A few weeks ago, Errick’s mother underwent open-heart surgery at CVC. It was a tough time for him and his family.

“That day things really hit home for me,” Errick said. “It let me experience first-hand what all of our patients and their families go through every day. I felt like I was finally on the inside looking out.”

And that feeling, Errick said, serves as motivation for the future — he said his music can help in the healing process. He wants to keep playing and composing — Errick only performs original compositions in a style that mixes classical music with jazz elements.

“I want to expand my musical reach. If I can touch even more people, make their day better, then that’s all I can ask for,” Errick said. “The hospital may be the last place someone wants to be, but it’s where they need to be. So maybe I can play a small role in improving their day and giving them a change of heart.”

In the mood for a melody? Click on the play button above to hear Errick Thomas’ original composition, “Me.” To download the song, click here, then right click anywhere on the black background and select “save as.” 

RELATED STORIES