Teen Sings During Brain Surgery So Neurosurgeon Jason Hauptman '01 Can Save Her Voice

An "awake craniotomy" and a flawless performance lead to an excellent prognosis.

By: Kristine Yahna Todaro  Monday, January 14, 2019 04:07 PM

Video courtesy of Seattle Children's Hospital

Washington state teenager Kira Iaconetti has a passion for musical theater and hopes to make a career of it. But several years ago she began having small episodes of epilepsy when she sang. After trying to ignore the symptoms, Iaconetti had an MRI, which revealed a marble-sized mass in the right temporal lobe of her brain that triggered seizures when she listened to or performed music.

Muhlenberg alumnus Jason Hauptman '01, a neurosurgeon at Seattle Children’s Neurosciences Center, recommended surgery to remove the tumor and suggested an "awake craniotomy" in which Iaconetti, now 19, would have to sing so he could map out areas of her brain to protect.

Her song of choice during the procedure? Weezer's "Island in the Sun," in part because of the line "I can't control my brain."

The surgery—a first for Seattle Children’s—as well as an inspiring video about the procedure caught the attention of dozens of media outlets including CBS News, CNN, NBC's Today Show, Forbes, Huffington Post and People.

"She performed flawlessly — really a performance of her lifetime!" Hauptman told CBS News.

"I'm good, I'm really good. It still doesn't feel like I did anything," Kira said in the same article, adding that she’s full of gratitude for Hauptman, who not only successfully removed the tumor but gave her a second chance at what she loves — music.

Hauptman said he thinks "her prognosis medically is excellent. I think her prognosis in life is even better."

Photo courtesy of University of Washington Medicine Neurological Surgery.