WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Four years ago, Kira Laconetti started having tone deaf episodes with her speech being garbled every time she sings or listens to music.
- A tumor was discovered to be squeezing against her auditory cortex that is provoked every time her musical abilities are ‘on’.
- Kira underwent surgery awake and singing while doctors worked on her brain.
Having a patient awake and singing while undergoing brain surgery was a first for the doctors of Seattle Children’s Hospital.
A self-taught musician who loves singing and performing in musicals and plays, Kira Laconetti, 19, had a terrible problem. Four years ago, she noticed that every time she sang or listened to music, she started having two-minute ‘spells’ of being tone deaf, stuttering and becoming incoherent leaving her extremely exhausted then return to normal.
Describing her episodes in an interview for Seattle Children’s Hospital, Kira related that she couldn’t sing nor process the words in time with the music. She added that it was “like a light switch turned off in my brain.”
Her ‘glitches’ according to one of the hospital’s neurosurgeons, Dr. Jason Hauptman, are caused by a calcified tumor that has pushed up against her auditory cortex. Her seizures whom Kira dubbed as “musicogenic epilepsy” are triggered when her brain is exposed to music or singing.
“This is quite unfortunate for Kira because she is a performer who likes to sing,” added Hauptman.
A surgery plan formulated by Hauptman and his fellow doctors would involve removing the tumor while confidently preserving the teen’s musical abilities.
An awake craniotomy was decided on-meaning, Laconetti will be conscious and will be singing during surgery so that doctors will be able to map out the areas in her brain that ignite when she sings.
The surgery that was scheduled on Sept. 4 was a success.
As doctors worked on removing Laconetti’s tumor, she sang “Island in the Sun” because it made her think of her family and Hawaii where she was born. She was put to sleep after that part of the procedure to finish up the surgery. Forty-eight hours later, she was singing and playing her guitar. It’s likely that she will not be needing any further surgery, said Hauptmann.
Neuropsychologist Dr. Hillary Shurtleff said the hospital never had a patient sing in their operating room before. She commented on Kira’s voice being so beautiful and shared that the whole process became interactive and exciting due to her willingness to work with the doctors.
Hauptman said that besides taking care of her tumor, they focused on protecting the very things she loves most like her passion for pursuing a musical theater career.
Before the surgery, Kira said her biggest fear was that the seizures would ‘get in the way of performing’. Now, all she wants is to get back to performing as soon as she can.