Lost and Found by Philip See

I’ve been a musician most of my life. In late October 2002, before I was to perform at a company Halloween party, I experienced sudden numbness on my left side, and muscular weakness in my left arm and hand. I missed the party. My wife and I spent that night in the hospital where I was tested for circulatory and neurological conditions. The diagnosis was multiple sclerosis (MS). I shrugged it off at first. I ended up getting

three opinions before I accepted it. I could no longer play guitar, drums, or keyboards. I couldn’t even do simple things like put on my own socks or trim my fingernails. As distressing as this was, I knew giving up my music was not an option. I thought about my late dad who, as a

boy with severe Cerebral Palsy (CP), wanted to play the piano, in spite of the fact that his hands were permanently clenched. He taught himself to play notes using the first knuckle of each thumb. He kept at it, and the impossible happened. His hands began to open until he eventually had full use of his fingers. He went on to play the organ all over the South and in Seattle, our hometown. (If you do a Google search on CP organist, you will find a video of my dad, Lloyd See, in his sixties playing a stanza from “Beyond the Sunset” on his organ.)

19 Like my dad, my deep love of music kept

me trying to play. After several months of playing dead-sounding chords and notes, a natural process the brain uses to heal itself—called neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity—rerouted my neural pathways, and my strength and musical ability eventually returned. Thirteen years later, I am helping other

neurologically challenged musicians, thanks to Seattle’s Multiple Sclerosis Center at Swedish Medical Center, and the generous donations of musical equipment from music stores and individuals. It’s a free program called Get Back Your Music, for which I organize one-on-one and group “jam sessions” that focus on reconditioning the participants’ affected areas. By being persistent, patients can invoke neuroplasticity to recover their lost skills. Our ultimate goal? To start a band. (If you do a Google search on “Get Back Your Music Phil See,” you will find a video about the program from KING TV News in Seattle.)

To this day, I have never medicated

for MS. I’ve treated it with a healthy diet and exercise, and of course, not giving up my music. Music transcends physical limits—whether one plays instruments or listens to them, the brain responds. Neuroplasticity can work for anyone.

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