'Don't Stop Believin' ' becomes battle cry for Detroit's COVID-19 patients

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

One Detroit hospital has a message for its patients recovering from COVID-19: Don't stop believin'.

Four decades after the rock band Journey famously introduced the world to mythical South Detroit, one of the city's most beloved songs has become a rousing battle cry for coronavirus patients.

"Don't Stop Believin'" — the 1980s hit song commonly played during Detroit Red Wings games — is echoing down the hallways of Henry Ford Hospital.

It's among songs of hope played during tear-jerking celebrations at Metro Detroit hospitals for patients prevailing over the coronavirus, serving as an inspiration for health care workers who are working to save lives while risking their own.

"The song is a sign of hope, a reminder to patients to never give up and a motivational thank-you to tired, never-stop-trying team members," said Veronica Hall, president of Henry Ford Hospital and a registered nurse.

The joyful celebrations have come when patients get off ventilators or get discharged, and have become an antidote to the gloomy, daily reports of people getting infected, hospitalized and dying from COVID-19.

"The victories and the happy moments ... are often marked with smiles, cheers, maybe a recording of successes on whiteboards — and tears of relief among the critical care teams and staff connected to emergency and COVID-19 units," Hall said.

Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit has been playing Journey’s “Don't Stop Believin'" for the past week when COVID-19 patients get discharged.

Detroit is among the hardest hit by the virus. The city's confirmed cases reached nearly 7,000 on Monday, and Detroit's death toll is closing in on 400.

In an emotional video of a patient recently departing Henry Ford in Detroit, Journey's rock anthem plays in the background as a health care worker pushes the wheelchair of a woman giving a thumbs-up as several health care workers applaud her.

Hall said "Don't Stop Believin'" was chosen knowing the days can be long and hard and come with many losses and unprecedented stress for patients and health care workers.

"The song's message is a reminder that this patient's discharge is just as possible for the next patient and the next," she said.​​

The Detroit hospital has been playing the song for the past week. Soon, Henry Ford Macomb in Clinton Township and Henry Ford Wyandotte will play the song for patients during their milestone moments in the battle against COVID-19.

At Henry Ford Allegiance in Jackson, patients who have triumphed over coronavirus have departed for the past three weeks to Katrina & the Waves' "Walking On Sunshine." 

And music is being embraced in other health care systems.

Last week, Beaumont Health began playing the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" when patients in dire situations get better.

The song was chosen after one of the employees suggested playing the uplifting song about hope, a new beginning and moving forward, said Susan Grant, chief nursing officer at Beaumont Health.

It's now played whenever patients get off a ventilator or are discharged.

"It's uplifting and celebrates the health of that individual getting better,” Grant said. “It’s also encouragement to our staff and physicians for the wonderful care that is being delivered.”

It provides a few moments of hope in a world that has turned into round-the-clock news about the virus, the race to find a treatment and the climbing number of people who have been infected and died, Grant added.

"It's important to remind people that people do get better," she said. "They do survive. It's important for our health care providers to be reminded they are providing extraordinary care. They are heroes."

The COVID-19 pandemic began in China in late December and rippled around the world soon after. In Michigan, people have been sickened and hospitalized, prompting a number of executive orders to mitigate the spread. As of Monday, the number of cases climbed to 25,635 with more than 1,600 deaths.

But many have survived the virus.

That's why health care facilities are blasting songs of celebration in hospitals outside of Michigan, including one in New York City.

In a recent video shared on Instagram by Journey's Jonathan Cain, health care workers clap their hands, dance, hoot and holler against the backdrop of the song as they roll two patients down the hall of a hospital floor.

Cain, Journey's keyboardist who co-wrote the 1981 song, said he loved how "Don't Stop Believin'" is now being used.

"Love this from a hospital in NYC where people are being released after beating Covid -19 while they played our song," wrote Cain.

"Don’t Stop Believin’ 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻💪💪💪."

And hold on to that feelin'.