Sophisticated Surgery Strikes the Right Note for Stephen Krahn


7Dr. Stephen Krahn is a master organist. Since the age of seven, he has felt most at home when seated at an organ or piano. His talent flourished and earned him master’s and doctorate degrees in music.

In 2012, Stephen began to experience twitching muscles in his jaw and a numb right thumb. He learned that those symptoms, which affected his ability to play a keyboard, were the result of small seizures. One year later, after suffering two grand mal seizures and another severe attack that lasted several hours, Stephen was referred to University Medical Center Brackenridge, where he met fellowship-trained neurosurgeon Dr. Mateo Ziu.

“He told me, ‘You have a large brain tumor and it’s got to come out,’ ” recalls Stephen. “I was frightened to say the least, but impressed by Dr. Ziu’s skills and confidence.”

To minimize Stephen’s risks for paralysis and loss of speech, Dr. Ziu performed a sophisticated operation known as an awake craniotomy, where the individual is awake and not under anesthesia during the surgery. The unique procedure allows Dr. Ziu to interact with a person during surgery and modify his technique based on changes on his or her speech and motor skills.

“I listened to the Brahms Symphony No. 1 to help me mentally and emotionally prepare for surgery,” said Stephen. “I didn’t feel any pain. After the surgery, I was so relieved. I wanted to talk everyone’s ear off, and I’m not much of a talker.”

Dr. Ziu is pleased with Stephen’s progress. The great majority of his tumor was removed and the remaining tumor tissue should respond well to radiation and chemotherapy.

“Seton’s medical team—the neurosurgeon, the neuro-oncologist, the neuropsychologist— made me feel important. This is a group of seriously educated, specialized, qualified people who came together for me.”

Since the surgery, Stephen hasn’t had a single seizure. And the news gets better. “I have sat down to play piano and all the parts work!” he discovered to his great relief. “I landed a new job as a church organist. Looking ahead, I plan to accompany orchestras. I’ve got a lot left to accomplish on this earth.”