In what may be one of the most amazing musical performances ever, a Spanish jazz musician played his saxophone while undergoing brain surgery. Carlos Aguilera, the 27-year-old jazz musician, played his saxophone during the surgery in order to ensure that his neurological functions were not damaged. Aguilera was given pain medication during the surgery, which was performed to remove a brain tumor, but he was kept awake so he could play the saxophone. The musical piece he performed was a classical jazz number, “Misty,” and he awesomely played it during the complicated 12-hour surgery.
The surgery was performed at the Regional Hospital in Malaga, Spain on October 15, but Aguilera and his doctors just had a news conference last Wednesday to announce that the surgery was a success. UPI reported on what Aguilera had to say about his brain surgery.
“Two months ago I was on the operating table and now I have my life ahead of me, I have been brought back to life,” said Aguilera during the conference. Aguilera was also grateful to the surgical team for making sure he was still able to play after the surgery. “Without music I am nothing,” Aguilera said.
This is not the first time a procedure like this has been performed. Earlier this year in Tubarao, Brazil, at the Hospital Nossa Senhora de Conceicao, 33-year-old Anthony Kulkamp Dias underwent brain surgery and was kept awake while he sang and played his guitar, including the song “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Slovenian opera singer Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne also underwent a similar surgery at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. Ambroz sang Schubert’s aria “Gute-Nacht” to the surgery team performing his surgery.
The U.S. also had a similar surgery performed – concert violinist Roger Frisch played his violin during a brain operation and helped his surgeons find the right spot to place an implant in his brain. Frisch, a concert master with the Minnesota Orchestra had been diagnosed since 2009 with essential tremors, a condition where the part of the brain that controls movement sends abnormal signals. The violinist underwent his surgery last spring and was playing with his orchestra four weeks later.
The neurosurgeon who led Aguilero’s surgery, Dr. Guillermo Ibanez, said that the technique was the best way to ensure that Carlos would still be able to perform as a jazz musician, The Daily Mail reported that at the conference on Wednesday, Dr. Ibanez said, “We operated on Carlos like this because he’s a professional musician and his working life depends on this activity.” Aguilero’s surgery team consisted of 16 health professionals, including three neurosurgeons, two neuropsychologists, three neurophysiologists, an anaesthetist and five nurses. A medic held up sheet music for the jazz musician.
In procedures like these brain surgeries, the neurosurgeons and neuroanthesiologists work closely together to determine if it is crucial for the patient to remain awake. According to the Hopkins Medicine website, there are many factors to consider during an awake brain surgery. In the event that someone like a musician needs brain surgery, the patient would need to be kept awake in order to monitor their neurological functions. Physical and health conditions can also factor in, such as someone with sleep apnea or an obese patient. In those cases, awake surgery cannot be performed.
The patient can be put to sleep at the beginning and end of the surgery, and awakened in the middle or the patient might be merely sedated at the beginning and end of the surgery and awake in the middle. The patient could also be awake during the entire surgery with just a scalp block anethesia. In order to determine the areas of the brain the surgeons need to avoid, the brain is prodded with small electrodes while asking the patient to perform tasks.