"I felt like it was such a unique experience that I couldn't pass up": Florida man plays Deftones and System Of A Down riffs while undergoing brain surgery

Christian Nolen undergoing surgery
(Image credit: WSVN Miami)

Florida guitarist Christian Nolen has made headlines around the world after playing some of his favourite riffs while undergoing surgery to remove a tumour from his brain. 

Nolen's tumour was diagnosed after he was knocked during a live show, after which he lost the feeling on the left side of his body and was unable to raise his left arm above his waist. After being advised that surgery was necessary, he underwent the procedure at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, where a neurosurgical team led by Dr. Ricardo Komotar used Nolen's guitar-playing skills to test and protect his dexterity while the tumour was being removed. 

Nolen was put to sleep at the beginning of the procedure, as his skull was opened up, then – as the tumour was touching the part of the brain that controls the hands – awakened during the removal process to play the guitar, so that the surgical team could monitor the integrity of his movements.

“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,” Nolen told WSVN.

"I’d only really heard of procedures of that nature being done in shows and movies,” he told Fox News Digital. “I felt like it was such a unique experience that I couldn’t pass up – especially with my motor skills being on the line. The risk of being sedated for the entire procedure outweighed any fear or anxieties around the procedure itself.”

“A case like this spotlights the value of multidisciplinary care," said Dr. Komotar "You can only do these types of surgeries at a place like Sylvester, where there’s a great neurosurgical team with neuro-anaesthesiologists, great intensive care specialists, great oncologists – an amazing team of professionals working together."

The procedure went smoothly, and Nolen is now back home, where he is once again playing guitar. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.