Methodist Dallas Medical Center
By Mahita Gajanan
October 30, 2019

25-year-old Jenna Schardt underwent brain surgery — while awake — in Texas on Tuesday, and the procedure was livestreamed on Facebook.

Doctors with the Methodist Dallas Medical Center performed the surgery to remove a mass of tangled blood vessels in Schardt’s brain that had impaired her speech and caused seizures. At the beginning of the operation, Schardt was put under anesthesia so doctors could cut into her skull. Once they reached her brain, Schardt was woken up so she could speak and answer questions, helping doctors map her brain.

During the surgery, Schardt was shown an iPad on which she identified a series of numbers, colors, animals and other objects. Patel explained that if Schardt was able to identify what was on the iPad, surgeons would know which areas of her brain were OK to touch; if she made a mistake, they knew which areas to avoid.

“Basically we have a GPS tracking system for the brain already, and we need to find out where are the places that we want to avoid and where are the places that are safe to go,” Dr. Nimesh Patel, who helped to narrate the procedure, explained in the video. “Any small movements, a millimeter to the left, a millimeter to the right, can affect her speech.”

“Twenty. Bananas. Two. Orange,” Schardt could be heard saying. Doctors repeated some sequences, and had Schardt say the same words over to make sure they had all the information they needed, Patel said.

Tens of thousands of people tuned in to the live broadcast. As of Wednesday morning, the video has about 93,000 views. Schardt, who is studying to be an occupational therapist, said she wanted to have the surgery livestreamed to help others who might have to have a similar procedure. A few hours after the surgery was performed, the hospital said on Facebook that Schardt was doing well and with her parents.

“I’m so impressed by her,” Patel said in the video.

Awake brain surgery has become a more commonplace procedure for doctors in recent years; a patient undergoing brain surgery at the University of Rochester played the saxophone while doctors performed the procedure.

And live videos from the operating room are not unheard of either. A Texan woman had her breast cancer surgery livestreamed on Facebook in 2018 to raise awareness of the disease.

Write to Mahita Gajanan at mahita.gajanan@time.com.

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