Dramatic Video: Violinist Plays Again in Surgery

After 20 years of not being able to play due to tremors, pro violinist recovers her music thanks to a Tel Aviv surgery.

Ari Yashar,

Naomi Elishuv plays violin during surgery
Naomi Elishuv plays violin during surgery
GPO photo

For Naomi Elishuv, a professional violinist formerly of the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Givatayim Conservatorium of Music, Tuesday was the day she was reborn as a musician.

Elishuv had been forced to put down the violin for 20 years, after being struck with tremors that prevented her from playing professionally.

However, immediately after deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Elishuv dramatically picked up her beloved instrument again, even as she still lay on the operating table.

"My greatest love was playing the violin, but unfortunately, until today, I have had to make do with teaching," explained Elishuv. "My tremor prevented me from playing professionally, and this was very difficult for a woman such as myself, who was used to playing her entire life."

After the long years, Elishuv said "I could not continue any longer in my 20-year tremor state; I can’t wait to return to normal life. I want to play, sign my name, and drink tea without spilling it, and I am only sorry that I just now discovered this surgery."

Professor Yitzhak Fried, Director of Functional Neurosurgery who operated on Elishuv, remarked "this is the first time that I have operated on a patient who played an instrument during surgery, and I am so pleased that we had the opportunity to enjoy a private concert from a most talented and honorable musician."

Explaining the procedure, Fried noted "we implanted and positioned a brain pacemaker with electrodes in the area of the brain disturbance, which emits impulses to suppress the tremor that was disturbing Elishuv’s daily functioning. The operation was performed under local anesthesia."

Aside from dramatically illustrating the effects of the surgery, Elishuv's violin playing came at the request of the medical team, who wanted her participation in real-time to "place the electrode in the optimal location."

"During the procedure, she did not feel pain because these areas of the brain do not feel pain," Fried continued, "Before the operation, I did stereotactic planning, which enabled me to identify the exact optimal brain location, within millimeters."

"When we activated the stimulation in the exact location, we found that the tremor disappeared and Elishuv continued to play Mozart - with great emotion, but without the tremor or side effects,” Fried concluded.

In the video, she shouts out "I have control!" when she finally begins to play without tremors.


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