Jenna Schardt, a 25-year-old graduate student, bravely underwent brain surgery on Tuesday, October 29, and not only did she need to stay awake during the complicated procedure, Methodist Dallas Medical Center live streamed the surgery on their official Facebook page.
Schardt, who’s studying occupation therapy, was already focusing her career on helping stroke patients and those with neurological problems, and in weird twist of fate, became one of those patients herself. While working at North Texas rehabilitation center, officials said she suddenly lost the ability to speak.
After being rushed to the hospital, doctors found a mass of blood vessels in Schardt’s brain which was affecting her speech, and said that she needed brain surgery to remove the mass which was causing her to have seizures. It was Schardt’s idea to livestream the procedure, because she saw this as a prime teaching moment, and way to help educate the public about a topic she was already passionate about.
During the surgery, while Schardt was awake, she worked with neurosurgeons, Dr. Randall Graham, Dr. Bartley Mitchell, and a large operating room team, to detail to viewers what was happening.
“Awake brain surgery is nothing new,” Dr. Graham said, to The Dallas Morning News. “It’s been around for years.” He explained that the reason surgeons have patients stay awake is so that they can test brain function around a lesion or tumor to try and keep from damaging key neurological functions.
Graham added, “If I stimulate a spot that controls part of her speech, then her speech will stop … so then I’ll be able to mark that area on the brain’s surface that basically tells us to stay out of the area. The brain surface doesn’t have any pain receptors. The part with all the pain receptors is the scalp, skull and some of the soft tissues surrounding the brain.”
If The Surgery Did Not Go Well, Schardt Could Lose the Ability to Speak
In video posted before surgery, Schardt said that she wasn’t nervous. “I have peace about the situation,” she said. “I feel like everything happens for a reason, and if this can be some kind of learning opportunity for somebody else, I mean, I think something good is going to come out this.”
“This is going to be close,” Mitchell said in the video. “So that’s why we have to map out the speech area first before we go in – and to do that, we have to physically map them out on the brain while she’s awake and talking to us.”
Dr. Nimesh Patel, chief of neurosurgery at Dallas Medical, was also present in the operating room to help narrate the procedure and take questions from viewers during the procedure.
Warning: The video below offers a live look at an awake craniotomy. Dallas Medical Center said it would do its best to avoid graphic video, but because this is live, “there may be a piece of video you are uncomfortable with.”
Schardt’s Live Awake Brain Surgery Was A Success
The 47 minute livestream started at 11:30 a.m. local time in Dallas, and what seemed to be a scene straight of Grey’s Anatomy, the hospital continuously sent update via the comment section on Facebook. At minute 13:00 they wrote, “Jenna is awake and smiling! Neuromonitors are showing her pictures and words on an iPad for her to identify.”
During the procedure, over a thousand comments and responses were posted on the livestream video. Doctors reassured viewers that “Jenna was asleep during the removal of the bone flap,” and “was only awake for the mapping, which she wouldn’t feel. She can only hear what people are talking to her about. She will also be asleep when the mass is removed.”
Doctors said Schardt will likely be able to go home in a few days and will “be back to normal” then, too.