Music and medicine: Local musician and doctor bond over viral duet

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HONOLULU (KHON2) – Sean Tiwanak is no stranger to adversity. He’s suffered from a viral infection in his chest leading to heart failure for over 15 years.

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The local musician put his music career on pause to travel to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to pray for a heart transplant.

“One week ago, I was on a flat end bed on a balloon pump,” said Sean Tiwanak a heart transplant patient. “That’s one of the two sickest categories of patients and it could’ve taken months to get a heart.”

COVID-19 also forced Tiwanak to endure this journey alone.

“You don’t get visitors and it gets lonely and it gets hard. I think that’s where the health care professionals have really stepped forward to really help their patients and reach across the bed rail, so to speak,” Tiwanak said.

One of those health care professionals is Dr. Lily Stern.

“On my nighttime rounds, I went to meet him and we just popped in the room,” said Dr. Lily Stern a cardiology fellow at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “Before I could say anything, he said ‘hand me my ukulele and I’ll play for you.'”

An impromptu duet has pulled on the heartstrings of 32,000 people and counting.

The duo has proven that medicine heals the body, but music heals the soul.

“It made everything in my day and I do believe that’s why I’ve been able to heal so fast,” said Tiwanak.

“It reminded me of why we’re here, to connect us as people and to go through hard times,” said Dr. Stern.

After a successful surgery, Tiwanak has been discharged from the hospital. He will continue to recover for the next five months in Los Angeles before making the trip home.

To donate to Tiwanak’s GoFundMe account to help with medical costs, click here.

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