Patient plays sax… during his own brain surgery

Digging into health research, journals and the like… it can be equal parts exciting and infuriating.

When I come across natural solutions that doctors ignore, ones with real potential, it can make me a little batty.

So, yeah… I do look at doctors a little skeptically sometimes.

But then I read a story like this and you have to appreciate the care, the science, and the genuine desire to help that the best doctors bring to the table.

This story from the journal Current Biology is… well, I’ve never heard of anything like it.

Let me set the stage for you.

Back in 2015, a music teacher working on a project for his Master’s in music education began to, in his words, “see and hear things that I knew were not real.”

Coupled with dizziness and nausea, he went to the hospital. And a CAT scan revealed something awful: a mass in his brain.

He was only 25… and scared to death.

The good news: the tumor appeared to be benign. And in an area where surgeons could get to it.

The bad: that same area of the brain is known to be critical to music function.

While he could be treated, he could lose the most important thing in his life, what gave him purpose and meaning.

So the team of doctors formed a plan.

Using a complex series of functional tests while doing brain scans, the doctors could build a detailed 3-D map – to guide them through the surgery.

A quarter inch one way or the other, and delicate motor functions, language, and music… he could lose them forever.

And these mapping tests included humming melodies, at least at the start. But what they really wanted to protect was the music teacher’s talent on the sax.

So they brought the horn in the OR with them…

Now, playing the sax with a team of surgeons working inside your skull – you won’t see this at a jazz club.

Blowing a sax on most songs could actually have the teacher’s brain popping out of his head!

So they found just the right tune, a folk song that could be played with short, shallow breaths.

And then the surgery began.

Once they removed the tumor, but before they closed him up, the teacher (who was amazingly awake during the entire process) was handed his sax.

Lying on his side, he put it to his lips… and played it flawlessly.

The surgeons erupted in applause.

And a couple months later, the teacher was back in the classroom.

It’s amazing what technology can do, when you pair it with compassionate docs.

I’ve always loved music, all kinds. But I wonder what my brain scan would show if I picked up a sax.

Reminds me of a joke my dad used to tell.

A patient has major surgery on both hands. They’re all bandaged and wrapped like a mummy.

“Doc,” the patient says, raising his hands. “When these bandages come off, will I be able to play the piano?”

“I am a very skilled surgeon,” the doc says. “I don’t see why not.”

“Great,” says the patient. “Because I never could before.”

God Bless,

Jeff Reagan

Editor, Patriot Health Alliance

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2 thoughts on “Patient plays sax… during his own brain surgery

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  2. Great story! I always read everything you send every single day. Feel like you’re a good ol’ friend! Thank you, Jeff!

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