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Cancer patient plays guitar as doctors remove his brain tumor: ‘I just had to breathe and stay calm’

The neurological team from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine asked Christian Nolen to play guitar during his surgery so that they could evaluate and protect his manual dexterity. https://www.foxnews.com/health/florida-brain-tumor-patient-plays-guitar-during-surgery-this-wild The idea of having brain surgery while awake might seem amazing enough â but one Florida man took it a step further and played the guitar while doctors removed his tumor. The neurological team from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine wanted the patient, Christian Nolen, to play notes on the instrument so they could evaluate and protect his manual dexterity while being as aggressive as possible in removing the tumor. The surgeon and patient both spoke with Fox News Digital about the experience. Nolen, who is an avid guitar player, had a tumor on the right frontal lobe of his brain that was starting to cause symptoms. "Christian was having issues with the left side of his body, particularly his left hand," Ricardo Komotar, M.D., director of the brain tumor program at Sylvester, told Fox News Digital via Zoom. "He was noticing issues with his dexterity that affected his ability to play the guitar." Nolen needed surgery to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of tumor â as every tumor has different treatment options, Komotar noted â and also to remove as much of it as possible. The surgery was scheduled for 10 days after the tumor was discovered â and Nolen was surprised when the doctors asked if heâd be willing to remain awake and play the guitar for the procedure. "When a tumor is involving or near a critical part of the brain â something that controls the ability to speak or understand language or move â 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. When the patient is asleep, the doctor said, the surgery team doesn't have the ability to get feedback. "The surgeries actually become much more dangerous because you can take out a tumor that involves normal brain function and cause real harm without knowing it," he said. Given the importance of guitar-playing in Nolenâs quality of life, Komotar said there was "no better way" to monitor his manual dexterity and the effect of the tumor than to have him take up the instrument in the operating room. When the doctors posed the option to Nolen, he said that at first it "didnât seem real." "Iâd only really heard of procedures of that nature being done in shows and movies," he told Fox News Digital in an email. "I felt like it was such a unique experience that I couldnât pass up â especially with my motor skills being on the line." He added, "The risk of being sedated for the entire procedure outweighed any fear or anxieties around the procedure itself."

The idea of having brain surgery while awake might seem amazing enough — but one Florida man took it a step further and played the guitar while doctors removed his tumor.

The neurological team from the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine wanted the patient, Christian Nolen, to play notes on the instrument so they could evaluate and protect his manual dexterity while being as aggressive as possible in removing the tumor.

The surgeon and patient both spoke with Fox News Digital about the experience.

Nolen, who is an avid guitar player, had a tumor on the right frontal lobe of his brain that was starting to cause symptoms.

“Christian was having issues with the left side of his body, particularly his left hand,” Ricardo Komotar, M.D., director of the brain tumor program at Sylvester, told Fox News Digital via Zoom.

“He was noticing issues with his dexterity that affected his ability to play the guitar.”

Nolen needed surgery to confirm the diagnosis and determine the type of tumor — as every tumor has different treatment options, Komotar noted — and also to remove as much of it as possible.

The surgery was scheduled for 10 days after the tumor was discovered — and Nolen was surprised when the doctors asked if he’d be willing to remain awake and play the guitar for the procedure.

“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.

When the patient is asleep, the doctor said, the surgery team doesn’t have the ability to get feedback.

“The surgeries actually become much more dangerous because you can take out a tumor that involves normal brain function and cause real harm without knowing it,” he said.

Given the importance of guitar-playing in Nolen’s quality of life, Komotar said there was “no better way” to monitor his manual dexterity and the effect of the tumor than to have him take up the instrument in the operating room.

“The surgeries actually become much more dangerous because you can take out a tumor that involves normal brain function and cause real harm without knowing it,” he said.

When the doctors posed the option to Nolen, he said that at first it “didn’t seem real.”

“I’d only really heard of procedures of that nature being done in shows and movies,” he told Fox News Digital in an email. “I felt like it was such a unique experience that I couldn’t pass up — especially with my motor skills being on the line.”

He added, “The risk of being sedated for the entire procedure outweighed any fear or anxieties around the procedure itself.”

Prior to the procedure, Nolen said he was introduced to members of the surgical team and was told in-depth about what to expect.

The anesthesiology team put Nolen to sleep for the beginning of the open craniotomy, but he was awakened during a delicate part of the two-hour procedure. Once he was oriented on what was happening, the care team gave Nolen a guitar and asked him to play.

“Upon awakening, it was quite overwhelming to see everything around me and to fight the natural reaction to sit up,” Nolen recalled.

After one of the members of the care team placed a “reassuring hand” to prevent Nolen from sitting up, he said it took only a second for him to remember what was happening.

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