Monday, April 15, 2024

Taylor Swift Fan Sings Through Brain Surgery: A Musical Miracle in New Jersey

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In a scene that could have been plucked straight from Taylor Swift’s wildest dreams, a superfan from New Jersey underwent awake brain surgery while serenading her surgical team with the pop star’s iconic hits. Selena Campione, a 36-year-old mom and private school teacher from Stanhope, found herself the unexpected star of her very own “Eras Tour” operating room edition on January 31, 2024.

Her starring role was an unconventional detour on a year-long medical odyssey that began in March 2023 with strange symptoms like tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness on the right side of her body. “I couldn’t use my right arm, the right side of my face would swell up, and I would have trouble talking,” Campione recounted. “I would be stuck, almost.”

Progressively worsening troubles with walking, dexterity, and sensation ultimately led the beleaguered teacher through a revolving door of neurologists, MRI specialists, medications, and hospital stays without answers. That was until neurosurgeon Dr. Nitesh Patel of Hackensack Meridian Health spotted something on her brain scan that others had missed – a low-grade glioma tumor on the left side pressuring the right half of her body.

The “Magical” Craniotomy Concert

To safely remove the tumor from such a delicate area controlling speech and motor skills, Patel recommended an awake craniotomy, a rarity where the patient remains conscious throughout portions of brain surgery. “I was scared out of my mind,” Campione admitted upon learning she’d be kept wake for the risky operation. “I couldn’t even believe that was a possibility. I didn’t even know that you could have brain surgery and be awake.”

While awake neurosurgeries allow surgeons to monitor the brain’s real-time responses during the procedure for improved precision, they admittedly make for a bizarre spectacle. As Patel exposed Campione’s brain that winter day, nurses encouraged the patient to engage her neural pathways by…singing? And not just any tunes, but the sugary pop anthems of her fandom’s presiding goddess – Miss Taylor Swift herself.

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“She can talk, she can repeat things, tell us her name, etc.,” Patel explained of his unique intraoperative neurological monitoring technique. “And while we’re stimulating the brain, if she has any errors in those actions, we know that’s a critical area.” By having Campione cycle through Swift’s extensive discography, her surgeons could map which brain regions controlled pitch, articulation, and memory retrieval critical for belting out the lyrics.

With daughters cheering her on from the surgical sidelines, Campione launched into an “Eras Tour” set list featuring everything from old school bangers like “Shake It Off” and “22” to her most recent pandemic-era releases on albums like “Folklore” and “Midnights.” As her doctors probed the neural territory tucked around her tumor, the Swiftie superfan cycled through radio-ready bars of “Bad Blood,” “Love Story,” “Anti-Hero” and more in a conscious performance marking new frontiers in live music.

“Basically, she did the Eras Tour for us,” Patel laughed, admitting the unorthodox concert made for an undeniably surreal day at the office. “I don’t want to discount the complexity of everything that’s involved in doing a brain surgery. But at the same time, I feel like the only way to really help patients get through the shock of going through any type of brain surgery is to have a touch of humor.”

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A Legacy Carved in Neurosurgery

While using music as a neurosurgical aid is actually growing practice, Campione’s case is believed to be the first ever awake craniotomy performed to the soundtrack of Taylor Swift’s full pop repertoire. The globally chart-topping singer-songwriter has assembled one of the largest fan armies in modern culture, and surgery inadvertently etched her own little Swiftie moment into the medical histories.

Though Campione herself can only “vaguely” recall hearing Swift’s upbeat smash “Shake It Off” playing during her operation, she doesn’t remember any of her own sing-along. “I felt nothing. I didn’t know anything was going on,” she said. “I didn’t even know my head was open.”

It wasn’t until nursing staff showed videos captured during the procedure that the generous girl realized the magnitude of her unplanned concert special. “I didn’t know I was singing until I saw all these videos of me singing,” she marveled.

Patel believes allowing Campione’s superfan passion for the 33-year-old Grammy winner to soundtrack her own surgery was a “fantastic” way to keep the vibe calm and positive. “Knowing that the team there is ready to take care of them, is professionally skilled and very good at their job,” he said of the strategy’s benefits. “But at the same time, we’re all human beings.”

A Happily ‘Cured’ Encore

In the weeks following her operations, Campione has been essentially “cured” according to Patel. Radically improved from the symptoms that once prevented her from working or even playing with her children, the New Jersey mom has gone from relying on eight staggering medications to just a single prescription – a new lease on life still sinking in.

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“I’m doing really well,” she beamed, sounding truly relieved after a year’s worth of frightening medical unknowns. “I feel pretty normal, which is fantastic, because I wasn’t able to say that for a long time now, and it was hard.”

While she’s regained the ability to walk, talk and live independently again post-surgery, there does remain one glaring absence from her recovery – she has yet to attend Swift’s real-life Eras Tour celebrating the pop titan’s decade-spanning musical canon. It’s a feat even more impressive considering the logistical hurdles of delivering her elaborate theatrical stage show to stadiums across the country.

As Campione guided surgeons through the neural mapping of Swift’s lyrics line-by-line, the larger-than-life production was playing out for hundreds of thousands of actual fans each night. Given Campione’s unexpected contribution to that legacy, she’s keeping a third eye trained towards Taymerica for any word of an encore tour leg or surprise guests appearance.

“If [Swift] would like to gift her family tickets to the next U.S. show,” Campione mused with a laugh, “that would be awesome.”

The odds may currently be as high as hoping to snag a Ticketmaster pre-sale code. But after her against-all-odds surgery success story, she’s hardly counting anything out – especially when it involves the unifying life force that is Taylor Swift’s music. As her story shows, those chart-topping anthems quite literally possess the power to move people in wildly unexpected ways.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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