Teen sings during brain surgery to preserve her musical talent

December 24, 2018

A teenager from Washington state is recovering from an awake brain surgery where she sang while doctors removed a tumor.

In order to preserve Kira Iaconetti’s musical talents, doctors had her sing during surgery. Kira had sung “Island in the Sun” by Weezer countless times, but none mattered as much as her operating room performance.

“I think it’s funny that, for my passion, I had to perform my passion while getting brain surgery,” she said.

Kira, now 19, has been performing in musical theater since age six, and she hopes to make a career of it. Four years ago, she started experiencing short episodes while she would sing or listen to music.

“All my energy is zapped, it’s all gone,” said Kira, who ignored it for awhile before realizing that the episodes could happen on stage.

It turned out that Kira had a rare form of epilepsy that triggered seizures when she listened to or performed music. Her MRI revealed a marble-sized mass in the right temporal lobe of her brain.

Dr. Jason Hauptman, a neurosurgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital, proposed surgery to remove the tumor. He also suggested an “awake craniotomy” where Kira would sing so he could map out areas of her brain to protect.

“Because it’s not enough for her just to sing, I need to know if she’s singing in a way that’s deviating from the way she should be singing,” said Dr. Hauptman.

Kira was on board.

“If this is what it takes to keep my career going and get out of my tiny town, then sure, go for it,” she said.

Her song of choice, “Island in the Sun,” filled the operating room with sweet music.

“She performed flawlessly,” said Dr. Hauptman. “It was really a performance of her lifetime.”

Three months later, Kira feels great -- but she still hasn’t stepped up on stage.

“I’m good, I’m really good -- it doesn’t feel like I did anything,” she said. “I feel like I’m not quite at what I know I can do, but getting there.”

Kira also said she’s heartened that her story has caught the attention of others. Even Weezer tweeted about her, sending her tickets to his April show in Vancouver.

“I’ve seen a lot of other people say that they’ve had something very similar to this and this made them speak out and figure out what it was,” she said.

Most of all, Kira is full of gratitude for her doctor, who not only successful removed the tumor but gave her a second chance at what she loves -- music.

“I was in shock that he even cared that much to preserve that,” said Kira.

“I think her prognosis medically is excellent,” said Dr. Hauptman. “I think her prognosis in life is even better.”

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