Dagma Turner is a professional musician who plays in the London-based Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra. Set to go under the knife to remove a brain tumour, she was worried that the operation could cause complications that may jeopardize her abilities to play the violin. The professional musician needed to ensure that there would be no impact on her hand-eye coordination, the agility, or the precision of her hands.
'The violin is my passion. I've been playing since I was 10 years old,' Turner said in a February 18 news release. 'The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking.'
The incredible idea
Doctors had an odd idea: they woke up Turner in the middle of her brain operation to make sure they didn't compromise any part of her brain not concerned in the surgery. To test the hypothesis, they asked her to play her instrument!
The King's College Hospital surgeons mapped her brain before the surgery to identify the areas that were active when she played her instrument and the ones responsible for controlling languages and movement:
'We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar, so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play,' said Prof. Keyoumars Ashkan, her neurosurgeon. 'We managed to remove over 90% of the tumor, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.'
Surgeons succeed in removing 90% of the tumour, without damaging any of Turner's abilities to play her instrument.
'The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking but, being a musician himself, Prof. Ashkan understood my concerns,' she said. 'He and the team at King’s went out of their way to plan the operation – from mapping my brain to planning the position I needed to be in to play.'
And... it was a success! The professional musician has been playing the violin since she was ten, and it seems like she'll continue playing it for years to come!
It's not the first time a patient played an instrument while on a brain operation.Abhishek Prasad was awake and encouraged to play the guitar while undergoing his own brain surgery on July 11, 2017, in Bangalore, India.