One-handed guitar brings back music for disabled refugee

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A custom made, one-handed guitar is helping a former Vietnamese refugee with a traumatic brain injury reconnect with his music and there are hopes the design could be further modified to help others suffering debilitating conditions.

For Dinh Van Nguyen music has always been a big part of life. As a young man he was the singer and guitarist in a Vietnamese band.

But after suffering a traumatic brain injury 23 years ago, he lost the use of the left side of his body and while he continued to sing he could no longer play the guitar.

As part of his rehabilitation, Dinh was introduced to music therapist Jason Kenner, who is himself a musician. One of Jason's aims was to bring music back into the former refugee's life.

"[Dinh] plays music with his carer Quan, but Quan plays the guitar and Dinh sings along, but if we put a guitar in Dinh's hand and we played the chord, than Dinh would strum along," Jason said.

"We're trying to think, how can we utilise that right hand technique without him needing to do something with his left hand."

The musican started playing around in his garage, taking one of his old guitars and modifying it. Using the idea of a harp and incorporated it into a guitar body, by shortening the neck and changing the tuning.

Jason says as soon as the prototype was handed to Dinh, something clicked.

"He just played it instantly, didn't have to explain how it worked, so it met its brief really well," he said. "We were able to utilise music, to achieve some therapeutic aims."

Dinh's carer Quan, believes he will greatly benefit from his new instrument and Dinh can now play the guitar whenever he wants.

"It gives him a new hope and it refresh his life. So he will be very very happy everyday here, he play guitar, and sing, whatever. So I'm very happy, that all of us, give him the chance, to have a better life."

Jason will now take his hybrid guitar to a national conference in Brisbane and he hopes others who also suffer hemiplegia can benefit from modified musical instruments.

Source SBS

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