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‘I played electric guitar while surgeons removed my brain tumour’ | Music | Entertainment

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Christian Nolen had been diagnosed with a primary tumour known as a Glioma, an aggressive form of brain tumour with an often poor prognosis. It was in a “critical part of the brain” and required major surgery.

Luckily, the rock music fan and pro guitarist had noticed immediately that he was having problems controlling one side of his body and sought medical help.

Dr. Ricardo Komotar, from the University of Miami Health System, explained: “It was involved in what’s called the hand motor area, the part of the brain that controls hand function.

“Without treatment this tumour would have grown into that hand area and he would have lost the ability, eventually, to use that hand… The only way to safely remove that tumour is via an awake craniotomy.” 

Nolen was put to sleep at the beginning of the open craniotomy but was later woken up by doctors during the two-hour procedure and asked to to play his guitar.

Such things were once only familiar to most people from TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, which had a similar storyline, but more and more surgeons are using the technique in related cases.

Dr Komotar told Fox News: “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.

“Fortunately, we were able to remove the entire tumour and not injure his hand.”

During the procedure, Nolen played hits from the American rock bands System of a Down and Deftones and even told the medical team “this is wild!”

He told WSVN Miami: “It was just, like, out of this world, like, to just like, wake up, and like, have people actively working inside of your head. It’s kind of an insane feeling.”

Nolen has played guitar since he was 13 and first started to notice the worrying symptoms when playing live shows. 

He said: “I had lost feeling in my whole left side. From the waist up, like, I wasn’t able to move my arm, my face began to drag.”

Within ten days of diagnosis, he was rushed into surgery was successful, and the team at University of Miami Health System managed to remove all of the tumour.

There is still more treatment to come but the prognosis is now much more positive and, incredibly, Nolen was able to go home and recover the very next day after the operation.

Dr Komotar added: “Christian’s recovery has been remarkable. He went home better than he was before the surgery.”

A jubilant Nolen said: “Being able to go to the gym and be active again, which is a big part of my life… It’s been very amazing.”



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