Since she was 6 years old, Kira Iaconetti has loved performing onstage in musicals. However, four years ago, the 19-year-old aspiring actress and singer started experiencing seizures that were brought on by her singing or listening to music. After the episodes became more and more frequent, doctors diagnosed the Seattle teen with music-triggered epilepsy. Each seizure would last for minutes and make Iaconetti extremely disoriented.
“It was like a light switch turned off in my brain,” Iaconetti told the Seattle Children’s Hospital about the seizures. “Suddenly, I was tone deaf, I couldn’t process the words in time with the music and I couldn’t sing.”
Worried that the seizures would affect her future career in musical theater, the teen went in for more testing.
“Forcing myself to sing after one of these glitches was extremely difficult by this point. I would become incoherent, slurring and stuttering my words … That was good enough reason to go back to the neurologist.”
After an MRI, doctors discovered a tumor in her brain. Because of the location of the mass, Iaconetti’s medical team at the Seattle Children’s Hospital came up with an innovative way to make sure that they preserved the musical theater-lover’s ability to perform: The teen would wake up in the middle of surgery and sing.
The Seattle Children’s Hospital’s posted a video to YouTube about this incredible story:
“In a sort of twisted joke from the universe the tumor was right inside the area of my brain that controls my hearing and singing ability,” said Iaconetti. “Messing with it could permanently affect my voice, and because Dr. Hauptman knew how important it is to me to continue singing and acting, he wanted to be very careful when removing the tumor. He didn’t want to interfere with my ability to sing.”
To accomplish this, Iaconnetti’s surgeon had her sing during surgery so that he could map the areas of her brain that were needed to keep her musical abilities intact.
Iaconnetti’s choice of song was Weezer’s “Island in the Sun.” Afterwards, the teen was put back to sleep for the remainder of the surgery.
Forty-eight hours after her surgery, Iaconnetti was able to sing and play music without the risk of seizures.
“My biggest fear before the surgery was that the seizures would get in the way of performing,” she said. “Now, I want to get back to the stage, to performing, as soon as I can.”