CORAL GABLES, FLA. (WSVN) - A professional guitar player is making news for undergoing brain surgery at a South Florida hospital while playing his guitar at the same time.
Christian Nolen underwent an awake craniotomy at the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is said to perform the most in the country with more than 200 cases a year.
As the team of doctors, nurses and techs were operating on his brain, Nolen was awake and attempting to play a number of songs by the Deftones on his guitar.
Nolen spoke with 7News about the surgery via Zoom on Thursday afternoon.
“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,” he said.
Nolen said he first noticed an issue after getting knocked during a show.
“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,” he said.
The performer ended up in the care of Dr. Ricardo Komotar, a neurosurgeon and the director of UM’s Brain Tumor Program.
The doctor said Nolen had a tumor and needed to undergo the procedure.
“These types of tumors, if you don’t have the ability to remove the tumor with the patient awake, actually become much more dangerous,” said Komotar.
Nolen was asleep at the beginning and at the end of the two-hour procedure, but he was awake and playing his guitar during some key moments of the surgery.
“Having the patient awake and playing guitar while we take out the tumor allows us to be as aggressive as possible, yet still maintain his quality of life and his manual dexterity,” said Komotar.
Komotar stressed the surgery is made possible by everyone who comes together to make the procedure safe and successful.
“The surgeon is only one small part of this entire procedure. It’s not possible without amazing neuroanesthesiologists, nurses, techs, residents, fellows, neuro-oncologists, radiation oncologists,” said Komotar. “It’s the entire Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program that I am most amazed about.”
As for Nolen, he has returned to what he loves doing the most: playing guitar outside of the operating room.
“Being able to go to the gym and be active again, which is a big part of my life. It’s been very amazing, like, the recovery,” he said.
Nolen said he still has some treatments and therapy to go through.
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