Shalom Life | July 17, 2015

This Israeli Parkinson's Patient Played Piano During Her Brain Surgery

Fully awake, 71-year-old Shoshana Levy plays 'Hava Nagila' and 'Golden Boy' while doctors implant a pacemaker in her brain

By: Dr. Itay Gal

Published: July 16th, 2015 in Health » Israel

A Parkinson's patient underwent brain surgery at the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv recently while playing the piano. The woman remained awake throughout the entire operation while a pacemaker was implanted in her brain.

Shoshana Levy, 71, from Kibbutz Hama'apil in central Israel, a grandmother of 12, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease about four years ago, shortly after her husband's death. The disease interfered with her love for piano playing, after raising generations of pianists throughout her adult life.

Video: Lior Tzur, The Sourasky Medical Center (in Hebrew)

"My life is useless without music," she said upon entering the office of Prof. Itzhak Fried, head of Sourasky's Functional Neurosurgery Unit.

Prof. Fried explained that the only way to ease the trembling symptoms and lack of muscle control in her fingers would be through a unique surgery which is part of the national medicine basket, during which a pacemaker would be placed in the cerebral area responsible for motivating the fingers.

Last week, Shoshana entered the operating room, where the pacemaker was implanted by Prof. Fried together with Dr. Ido Strauss. The pacemaker was accurately placed 1 millimeter away from the area responsible for the fingers' performance, in order to regulate the stiffness caused by the disease.

'It was like my hand started playing on its own'

Fully awake throughout the surgery, Shoshana informed the doctors of a significant improvement in her fingers. With tears in her eyes, she played a mix of songs, including "Hava Nagila" and Israel's 2015 Eurovision Song Contest entry, "Golden Boy." She was discharged from the hospital last Thursday.

The pacemaker implanted in Shoshana's brain will start working in full force in about two weeks, after her brain heals from the surgery, but she is already very excited.

"It felt great playing the piano again," she told Ynet. "It was like my hand almost started playing on its own. I was filled with great hope for the future. I felt relieved seeing the freedom of my fingers restored, after being chained to the disease for years.

"The piano has been a part of my life since childhood. Losing the piano caused huge mental pain, although I am an active and optimistic person. It's an amazing feeling of liberation."

Reprinted with permission from Ynet News

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