Dagmar Turner, 53, went under the knife at King’s College Hospital in London to have a dangerous tumour removed from her brain on Jan. 31. The tumour was nestled in the right frontal lobe of her brain, close to the area that controls language and the fine movements in Turner’s left hand.
One wrong move by doctors might have cost Turner 40 years of violin practice, robbing her of the dexterity needed to play the instrument.
But the neurosurgeons had a plan. They mapped Turner’s brain, opened up her skull for the surgery, then woke her from her anesthesia and asked her to play the violin. The activity allowed them to see and avoid the parts of the brain she needs to play, while successfully cutting away bits of the tumour.
Turner played music by Gustav Mahler, George Gershwin’s jazz classic Summertime and pieces by Spanish songwriter and singer Julio Iglesias.
“This was the first time I’ve had a patient play an instrument,” said Prof. Keyoumars Ashkan, the consulting neurosurgeon who came up with the idea.
“We managed to remove over 90 per cent of the tumour, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand,” he told Reuters.
The patient was released from hospital three days after the surgery.
Turner is a former management consultant who plays in the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra. She said she was relieved that the surgery didn’t rob her of the skills she’s developed over the last four decades.
“The violin is my passion,” she told Reuters. “I’ve been playing since I was 10 years old.
“The thought of losing my ability to play was heartbreaking.”
— With files from Reuters and The Associated Press