logo

Florida man plays guitar while undergoing brain surgery

Christian Nolen played System Of A Down and Deftones tunes while surgeons removed a tumour from his frontal lobe.

Brain scan

Credit: Derek Berwin/Getty Images

When you purchase through affiliate links on Guitar.com, you may contribute to our site through commissions. Learn more.

It goes without saying that most people who undergo surgery would opt to be out cold. But sometimes they have to be conscious for the procedure.

And in the case of Florida man and cancer patient Christian Nolen, he recently underwent brain surgery to remove a tumour from his head while fully awake.

Obviously, any sane person would seek to take their mind someplace else while such an invasive procedure is taking place, and fortunately for Nolen, an “avid guitar player”, according to the New York Post, there was a six-string nearby for him to distract himself with while the surgeons operated.

Well, he actually played guitar during the surgery under doctor’s orders, so that the medical team at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine could examine and protect his manual dexterity while simultaneously trying to remove the tumour.

The tumour itself was on the right side of Nolen’s frontal lobe, and was beginning to cause symptoms pertaining to dexterity, explains Ricardo Komotar, M.D., director of the brain tumour programme at Sylvester.

“Christian was having issues with the left side of his body, particularly his left hand,” he tells Fox News Digital. “He was noticing issues with his dexterity that affected his ability to play the guitar.”

The surgery was arranged for 10 days after the tumour was first discovered, at which point Nolen was asked if he’d be willing to remain awake and play guitar during it.

“When a tumour 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 says.

“The surgeries actually become much more dangerous [if the patient is asleep] because you can take out a tumour that involves normal brain function and cause real harm without knowing it.”

“I’d only really heard of procedures of that nature being done in shows and movies,” Nolen adds. “I felt like it was such a unique experience that I couldn’t pass up – especially with my motor skills being on the line.”

Nolen reportedly used the time in surgery to play tunes by System of a Down and Deftones.

“As we were finishing the case at the very back of the tumour, we noticed that his hand function started to decline,” says Komotar. “The tumour was touching and interfacing with the part of the brain that controls hand movement. Fortunately, we were able to remove the entire tumour and not injure his hand.”

Related Tags

logo

The world’s leading authority and resource for all things guitar.

© 2024 Guitar.com is part of NME Networks.