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Ottawa nurse sharing gift of music with ICU patients

Amy-Lynn Howson, an ICU nurse at The Ottawa Hospital, says playing music in front of patients took stepping out of her comfort zone.

A video of Ottawa nurse Amy-Lynn Howson singing “You Are Not Alone” to ICU patients -- A song that was originally written for a close friend, who had been going through a rough time -- is now resonating with so many in the Ottawa community.

“Never in my wildest dreams [did] I ever think that I would be getting messages from an ICU nurse in India; from someone in Argentina, who saw it from someone in Japan. That’s mind-blowing,” explains Howson.  

“But I know when I wrote that song, those words just really came out of a place. And sometimes when I write the songs that impact other people, I write them through my own tears.”

Howson started writing songs at the age of eight and has always had a love for music, but her passion for helping others often came first. After living in Kingston for nearly a decade, she moved to P.E.I. to continue her nursing career.

“So when I got to P.E.I., it was supposed to be two years, and about a year into [my] nursing career, I ended up going into the intensive care unit,” explains Howson. “I made friends really quickly — the kind of the friends that I’m still in touch with now.” 

In 2017 she left P.E.I to embark on a medical mission trip to Iraq, where she provided aid for children in need of heart surgeries.

Although Howson was giving back in many ways, music was always in the back of her mind. During the same year, she had the opportunity to go on tour with a non-profit music group in the United States.

“I realized that I wanted to see what this music thing was all about,” explains Howson. “Because I'd never really embraced my music; I'd never really call myself an artist.”

With the intention to be closer to family, she then moved to Ottawa, where she started work at The Ottawa Hospital, in the Endoscopy Department. 

Howson soon discovered a music college located in Tennessee, which led her to move to Memphis, where she worked on her songwriting skills and continued touring with the non-profit music group.

But the 2020 pandemic brought everything to a standstill. She had to decide whether she wanted to remain in Memphis or return to Ottawa.

“When we heard that the borders were closing and didn't know what that meant, it was so uncertain,” explains Howson.  “I was actually in California for a small music tour with some friends and had to cut it short.”

She then returned to Ottawa to her old position in the endoscopy department but then later got deployed to work in the intensive care unit. She says that despite the hardships in her journey thus far, she reminds herself to be grateful and look for ways that she can still be creative. 

“The last four years since that big move, it's been a lot of shifting, but a lot of opportunities to grow and learn — it's been a journey," explains Howson.

She credits her strong belief in God, which has helped her gain new-found confidence and courage to reach this point in her journey.

"There's a lot behind the scenes of just one moment of me standing in the hospital singing for patients that people see. But [there has been] a lot going on in my life leading up to that," explains Howson.

“I'm hoping that it's something that is just getting started, but I really think that there's something here that people need.” 

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