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The Greek Musician Who Played Bouzouki During Brain Surgery

music brain surgery
Greek musician Dimitris Kyrtsos plays his bouzouki while he gets brain surgery. Photo: Dimitris Kyrtsos handout

A Greek man who played the bouzouki, the Greek traditional musical instrument, in the operating room while the doctors performed brain surgery on him has become a legend.

Dimitris Kyrtsos is a virtuoso bouzouki player who never wants to part from his favorite instrument even at the most difficult moments of his life.

More than four years ago, the 38-year-old man from Veria went to the AHEPA hospital in Thessaloniki to have a brain tumor removed.

Dimitris took his bouzouki with him and asked the doctors if he could play his favorite instrument—and the favorite of most Greeks—during the operation procedure.

Brain surgery while playing music on the bouzouki

“I had seen videos on the internet from operations abroad where the operation is done this way,” he said on Agency 104.9 FM radio.

“I saw a man having surgery playing the guitar and another playing the violin during the operation. I thought ‘why not me?'” he inquired.

“I asked my doctors if I could play my bouzouki in the operation room during the procedure, but they told me it was not feasible at the time,” he said.

Two years later, though, the reappearance of the tumor led him back to the operating room of the same hospital.

All necessary procedures and arrangements were made so that this time he did not enter the operating room alone, but was accompanied by his favorite musical instrument.

A camera was set up in the operation room and the recording shows Dimitris Kyrtsos playing the bouzouki on the table, while all the details of the demanding and long operation were projected on the monitor behind him.

The experienced and renowned AHEPA surgeons performed the surgery with music. The first song Dimitris played was “Mavromata mou” (My dark-eyed woman), which he dedicated to his wife.

Bouzouki brain surgery
Dimitris Kyrtsos and his bouzouki. Credit: Athens-Macedonian News Agency

Operating while talking to the patient

“Operating on a patient in this way, that is, (him/her) communicating and talking to the doctors at that time, is something that has been happening for at least 14 years at the AHEPA hospital,” the neurosurgeon told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

Nikolaos Foroglou, Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the Medical School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, who operated on the musician further said:

“This is a technique that ensures the maximum detection of brain tumors, while maintaining its necessary functions,” Foroglou said.

In the case of the 37-year-old musician, doctors were able to extract information about the function of his brain, in addition to him answering questions asked in such surgeries.

Also, from the way he performed the music and by listening to his whispers, the operation team received the best proof that everything was going well in the patient’s brain.

“I hope the doctors who were in the operating room liked my music…I owe them a huge thank you,” the bouzouki player said.

“My students ask me how I felt in the operating room and if my bouzouki helped me. The answer is that everything became easier and calmer,”  Kyrtsos said.

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