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St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital music therapist Amy Love (right) plays music on her iPad with patient Jaxson Harper, 3, who suffers from Rhabdomyosarcoma during a session at the hospital.
Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal

No one who was in the ICU room that day will soon forget the moment Amy Love walked in, unpacked her guitar and began playing and singing to Jaxson Harper, a little boy with a tracheostomy tube in his throat and an irrepressible love of music in his heart.

Suffering from rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks the muscles and other connective tissue, the 3-year-old from Peoria, Illinois, couldn’t speak or see. A tumor pressed ominously close to his airways, and his optic nerve was damaged.

Brigit and Corey Harper saw their boy riven with pain, fear and frustration — connected to a tangle of tubes and unable to process what was happening to him at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They wondered whether he would ever be his happy, engaging self again.

Enter Love, St. Jude’s music therapist, who began strumming her accoustic guitar and singing. And as she played, her soprano voice carrying the tune of “Wheels on the Bus,” something happened to Jaxson: The distress etched on his face faded and in its place came a faint but unmistakable smile.

“I can tell you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Corey Harper recalls. 

Love, 27, has been winning over patients and comforting families ever since she arrived at St. Jude three and a half…