A Male Nurse Held This Sick Old Woman’s Hand, But When He Opened His Mouth She Cried

It’s not known what was wrong with Valentina Alvaji when she was admitted to hospital in 2013. Whatever it was, it no doubt it took a team of nurses and doctors to look after her. But then one nurse, Jared Axen, took her by the hand and looked her directly in the eyes. And when he opened his mouth, the old lady couldn’t help but cry.

As a nurse at the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, California, Axen spent his time preparing medications for his patients and tending to their basic needs. But this is a nurse who did something else for the people in his care. He wanted to go that extra mile.

You see, for Axen, nursing wasn’t necessarily the career path he wanted to pursue as a child. Born in July 1986, the young Axen’s upbringing wasn’t quite the same as that of other kids his age. In fact, his unusual childhood was supported and encouraged by his parents, Beverly and John.

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From kindergarten up until 12th grade, the medic was schooled at his home in Santa Clarita Valley, CA. But beyond the standard subjects such as math, English and science, Axen had another burning passion. And it was a talent that took him all over the world.

Axen loves to sing. While undertaking his high school studies, he would perform with choirs on international stages. He went on to earn an Associate Degree in Music from California’s College of the Canyons. He also trained in classical singing with a Master’s College vocal coach.

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Axen first performed overseas, with the Welsh Choir of Southern California, aged just 16. At 18 he was a semi-finalist in the Los Angeles Spotlight Awards. As a result of that contest, he trained with vocal coach David Romano, who has worked with the opera legend Luciano Pavarotti.

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When it came time for Axen to make a decision about his career, however, the singer had another idea. Rather than following the path to becoming an internationally-renowned vocalist, he instead began to think outside the box. The artist believed that his talents would be better utilized on a much smaller scale.

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“A lot of artists have to make a decision [about whether] they’re going to work in a business setting or with their art,” Axen told local radio station KHTS in 2013. “There are a lot of singers out there, let’s see if there’s a different way I can use [my talent].” In fact, the singer had an entirely new career path in mind.

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Rather than touring or performing for large audiences, the singer instead pursued a career as a nurse. As a result, and, quite by accident, he found fame in a completely unique way. At first Axen would sing in the hallways while doing his rounds. Mostly he would croon old classics, peppered with well-known Broadway numbers.

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As patients grew familiar with Axen’s voice, they began making song requests. But they wouldn’t just ask him to sing old tunes; they would also ask that he personally serenade them. Before long, Axen became well known on the wards, earning the nickname “The Singing Nurse”.

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Axen described his transition from singing to nursing in an interview with KHTS. He said, “I had been singing on stage for a while and you get to see an audience. You get to have a relationship with an audience. But you never get to see how your music affects somebody.” Indeed, it seemed that the nurse had struck a deeply personal chord with his patients.

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The singer explained, “In the medical field, you’re working with somebody who is going through a very stressful time in their life. Something traumatic has happened. And they’re used to, in the hospital setting, being treated as patients rather than as people.” But by singing to them, Axen had connected with those patients.

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Many of the patients who made song requests were seniors and those whose lives were coming to an end. Of course, being of a certain age, popular choices included legendary swing and jazz artists Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. Axen would sing their hits “Smile” and “I’ll Be Seeing You”.

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And it turns out that Axen’s singing seemed to have a positive effect on the patients. As he told the LA Times in July 2013, “When patients are in pain, it gives them some distraction. They may not necessarily be happy about their situation, but it seems a little easier [for them] to handle.”

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But Axen’s singing appeared to be beneficial in other ways, too. Indeed, he found that by singing to patients, their moods lifted. And this in turn often reduced the need to administer medication for pain or to balance out moods. The nurse thinks it’s “because they’re in higher spirits.”

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Axen’s supervisor, Sue Walroth, acknowledged that the nurse’s singing had been a positive experience for patients. She told the LA Times that they’re more inclined to believe “that someone cares about them… and the emotion and the feelings really come out when he sings.”

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One such patient was Norma Laskoske, who was admitted to Mayo Newhall while fighting lung cancer and pneumonia. The 89-year-old silently mouthed the lyrics along with Axen as he sang 1940s jazz standard “Time After Time”. The song brought tears to her eyes.

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Laskoske said, “If he would come in 24 hours a day, I think I’d be well and I’d be out of here. But then I wouldn’t see him. He has a beautiful, soothing voice, and the nice thing about it is when he looks at you, you know he’s singing to you. It just pierces my heart.”

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The story of The Singing Nurse traveled worldwide, and in May 2015 Axen signed a record contract with RadicLea Records. Though he saw out that two-year deal releasing only one single, he continued to work on his own music. In fact an EP is available from his website.

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Axen received several awards in recognition of his work as a nurse, including the Hospital Hero award presented by the Hospital Association of Southern California in 2012. He wrote on his website, “The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that you may never know what impact you will have on someone else’s life. People ask me how much you can make as a nurse. I make a difference.”

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