As Doctors Operated on Her Brain, She Gave Them a Concert

Woman plays flute during deep brain stimulation in Houston
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2018 8:59 AM CDT
As Doctors Operated on Her Brain, She Gave Them a Concert
Amazing.   (Getty Images/Furtseff)

To be a professional flute player with uncontrollable shaking of the head and hands is less than ideal, and after years of battling a neurological disorder called essential tremor, Anna Marie Whitlock Henry decided she'd had enough. So the 63-year-old underwent brain surgery last week to remedy the tremors—and she played her flute throughout the surgery. KHOU reports Henry on Tuesday underwent deep brain stimulation, a procedure in which electrodes are placed in certain parts of a patient's brain to emit electrical impulses to counter any abnormal impulses. TMC News notes it's been FDA-approved for not only essential tremor, but also for treating Parkinson's, OCD, and dystonia, a muscle movement disorder. For doctors to be able to see if Henry's surgery was working, however, she had to stay awake during the surgery to perform certain tasks.

Henry says she inherited her condition from her dad and started experiencing symptoms in junior high. Everyday actions like writing and sewing soon became difficult, and meds stopped working, but for Henry, the most devastating effect was on her flute playing. "It was frustrating to see that [control] disappear gradually," she says. As for whether Henry's surgery worked, TMC says it was "like flipping a switch": After the procedure, she now has handwriting that's readable for "the first time in decades," and her OR flute performance proved she's able to once again show off her musical talents. CTV News has video of Henry's cranial concerto, after which medical staff in the operating room gave her a rousing round of applause and cheers. Check out TMC News for a full description of Henry's surgery. (In Kenya, the wrong patient's brain was operated on.)

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