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Patient who played guitar as doctors removed tumor reveals what it was like to stay awake during brain surgery

Patient who played guitar as doctors removed tumor reveals what it was like to stay awake during brain surgery

Christian Nolen described the experience as 'wild'

A man who played guitar while undergoing brain surgery has described what it was like to actually be awake during the procedure.

You don't need me to tell you that having brain surgery is a massive undertaking, and just making it through the operation is a big task in itself.

It's not uncommon for patients to stay awake during certain brain operations, most commonly during the removal of tumors, but Christian Nolen did more than stay awake during his operation - he also played the guitar during it.

Nolen was faced with having to undergo surgery when a tumor on the right frontal lobe of his brain started to cause symptoms, including issues with his dexterity.

Just 10 days after the tumor was discovered, Nolen underwent surgery at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where the neurological team requested he play the guitar to allow them to evaluate and protect his manual dexterity, while still managing to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

The request wasn't entirely out of left field, as Nolen is an avid guitar player who picked up the talent when he was just 13-years-old.

Chrisian Nolen began playing the guitar when he was 13 years old.
WSVN 7 News / U-Health

Ricardo Komotar, M.D., director of the brain tumor program at Sylvester, spoke to Fox News Digital about the decision to have Nolen play the guitar, saying: "When a tumor is involving or near a critical part of the brain — something that controls the ability to speak or understand language or move — we want to do the surgery awake to continually monitor the patient, so you know if you start to violate normal brain functions."

Komotar said there was 'no better way' for the team to monitor Nolen's manual dexterity than to have him play the guitar, but at first the proposition 'didn't seem real' to the patient.

"I’d only really heard of procedures of that nature being done in shows and movies," Nolen told Fox News Digital.

However, Noel felt he 'couldn't pass up' the opportunity, and agreed to do as the team asked.

Christian played songs by the Deftones during his surgery.
WSVN 7 News / U-Health

When it came time for the surgery, Nolen was put to sleep for the beginning of the procedure before being woken up in the middle of it. Once he settled into his surroundings, the team gave him a guitar.

Describing the experience, Nolen said: "Upon awakening, it was quite overwhelming to see everything around me and to fight the natural reaction to sit up."

After being handed the instrument, Nolen played through songs by the Deftones and System of a Down, while doctors monitored his hand function.

During the surgery, Nolen commented: "This is wild."

Speaking on the success of the procedure, Komotar added: "As we were finishing the case at the very back of the tumor, we noticed that his hand function started to decline.

"The tumor was touching and interfacing with the part of the brain that controls hand movement. Fortunately, we were able to remove the entire tumor and not injure his hand."

Nolen is now on the road to recovery, while also awaiting the pathology results.

Following the surgery, his follow-up treatment is likely to consist of six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.

Featured Image Credit: WSVN-TV

Topics: US News, Health, Music, Viral