In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 10, 2017

Nurse Practitioner’s Gift to Family of Dying Patient: Songs That Comfort and Heal

By In the Loop
Nurse practitioner LaSonya Fleming is a talented vocalist who believes music can heal. Sometimes she sings at her patients’ bedsides and, in one special case, at a patient’s funeral.

LaSonya Fleming (right) with Lisa Pleggenkuhle.

The right medicine isn't always a pill or an injection. Sometimes, it's a song. Just ask LaSonya Fleming. "Music can make such a difference in people's outlook and help them get through the day a little better," LaSonya, a nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic, tells us. That's why LaSonya, a dedicated singer from the time she joined her first church choir at 5 years old, has been known to sing for her patients. "Music makes a difference in body and spirit," she says. "You can just see how a song can lift someone up."

That was certainly the case in August 2015, when LaSonya was caring for Dolores Pleggenkuhle. Dolores had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and told she likely had just a few months to live. "The family was overwhelmed," LaSonya says. "One of the daughters could hardly speak." That daughter was Lisa Pleggenkuhle, who in her grief was inspired to make a request of LaSonya, whom she'd just met: Sing for us.

"Without any hesitation at all, she began 'Amazing Grace,'" Lisa recalls. "My mom's hearing was declining, but I knew that LaSonya's golden voice was received crystal clear."

Nurse practitioner LaSonya Fleming is a talented vocalist who believes music can heal. Sometimes she sings at her patients’ bedsides and, in one special case, at a patient’s funeral.It was "magical" and "a precious moment," Lisa tells us. So much so that a few days later, when Dolores was preparing to be discharged, Lisa asked LaSonya to sing for the family once again. LaSonya agreed, and when she finished singing "The Lord's Prayer," Dolores asked a question of her own. "I know I am going to die, and I don't want the choir to sing. I want you to sing at my funeral," LaSonya recently recalled to 507 Magazine. She told Dolores it would be her honor.

Over the next few months, Lisa and LaSonya kept in touch. And when news came that Dolores had passed away, LaSonya kept her promise. "My mom took her last breath on Dec. 23, 2015, and her funeral was on a very snowy Monday," Lisa says, adding that she was concerned about LaSonya driving through the snowstorm. But LaSonya braved the conditions and made the 100-mile drive from Rochester, Minnesota, to a little country church in Iowa, where she sang for her patient one last time.

In addition to the two songs she'd sung for Dolores in the hospital, LaSonya also sang "Throw Out the Lifeline," which Dolores had dreamed about singing during her illness. When LaSonya finished singing, "There wasn't a dry eye in the room," she told 507 Magazine. Including Lisa's.

"I have never seen such commitment on that level from a caregiver before," Lisa tells us. "LaSonya was so gentle and kind to my mom" and "met all of our needs … physically and spiritually, which will keep us connected forever. She was our angel."

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Tags: Employee Stories, LaSonya Fleming, Patient Stories

Amazing story. THANK you for sharing! LaSonya, thank YOU for being a true caregiver and for showing love and faith to a family in need. Kudos to you for your willingness and openness to share.


How beautiful! This story lifted my spirits today.


Wonderful Story.


This is such a touching story! Thank you for sharing! and great job LaSonya!

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