Spartanburg nurse treats patients to a song

Murse Denise Wiley talks with patient Pearlie Mae Smith while making rounds at Mary Black Hospital in Spartanburg. Many patients have complimented her compassion, and when they can't remember her name, they call for "the nurse that sang to me."

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A beautiful singing voice often resonates through a fourth-floor patient wing at Mary Black Hospital in Spartanburg.

The sound comes from Denise Wiley - a nurse who delivers much more than compassionate care, friendly conversations and a warm smile during hourly rounds.

Wiley, who has worked at Mary Black for a little more than a year, believes there is healing power in music, and she sings gospel songs, and other songs upon request, to patients in their rooms.

"Music makes you feel good," she said. "If you're having a bad day, a good song can make you feel a little bit better."

On a recent Monday, Wiley stood by the bedside of Pearlie Mae Smith. The nurse opened her mouth and an a capella version of "God on the Mountain" filled the small room.

"Life is easy, when you're up on that mountain ..."

The music drifted down the halls of the telemetry/surgical unit on the fourth floor.

When Wiley finished, she clinched Smith's hand and offered an affectionate smile, almost as big as her voice.

"I hope you enjoyed that, Mrs. Smith," Wiley said.

"Thank you," Smith said. "That was wonderful."

When Wiley sings inside one room, patients in other rooms take notice. It's common for a patient in another room to call out: "When you're done over there, will you come over here?"

Throughout the day, many patients request that Wiley visit them. And if they can't remember her name, they will say: "I want the nurse that sang to me."

Wiley has been singing since the age of 6. She sang in her high school chorus and now sings in the choir at Selma Baptist Church in Woodruff. She also sings gospel music at other area churches.

When she worked at Ellen Sager Nursing Home in Union, she would sing to patients there as well. She said a lot of patients at Mary Black request "How Great Thou Art," but sometimes she will even sing a little pop or country music.

"I just enjoy singing," she said. "It is uplifting. It helps you keep a positive attitude. You can always put something in a song and keep smiling."

But Wiley doesn't sing to patients every day, and she doesn't sing to every patient. She gets to know her patients and forms relationships with them while they are at the hospital. When she learns about a patient's faith, or when she tells them that she is a gospel singer, it opens up the door.

"I will tell patients I am a gospel singer, and they will tell me their favorite song," she said. "The Lord makes it possible for me to sing (to the patients). He plans it, and I just follow through."

After singing in Pearlie Mae Smith's room, Wiley went across the hall to sing "On the Wings of a Dove" with Francis Perry.

Perry joined in on the song. He even clapped his hands and snapped his fingers.

"It's like a shot of happiness," Perry said of Wiley's singing. "Denise has a smile on her face all the time. I love her to death."