Brave NJ mom conquers brain surgery fears — by singing Taylor Swift songs throughout the life-saving procedure

A woman named Selena Campione in a hospital bed, post-brain surgery
A woman named Selena Campione in a hospital bed, post-brain surgery

She shook it off.

When Selena Campione learned she would be undergoing brain surgery while awake, she was terrified — but then a surgeon helped the Stanhope, New Jersey mom of two find a surprising way to overcome her fears.

“I was scared out of my mind,” the 36-year-old private school teacher said of the moment her healthcare provider broke the news.

Campione, 36, works as a teacher in New Jersey. She was shocked to discover that the brain surgery she needed required her to remain awake. Facebook/Daniel Paul
Campione, 36, works as a teacher in New Jersey. She was shocked to discover that the brain surgery she needed required her to remain awake. Facebook/Daniel Paul

“I couldn’t even believe that was a possibility. I didn’t even know that you could have brain surgery and be awake,” she told Fox News.

Campione’s long nightmare began after she had been experiencing uncharacteristic numbness and tingling along the right side of her body, affecting her ability to talk, walk and the use of her right arm and hand.

“My right leg — I wouldn’t even feel it,” she said, describing the phenomenon as being “stuck.”

“I wouldn’t have feeling in my foot. Part of my skin would turn purple. I wouldn’t feel anything at all.”

Campione saw a multitude of specialists and was prescribed various medications until she met neurosurgeon Dr. Nitesh Patel, co-director of the Neurosurgical Oncology program at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center.

She said her two young daughters “jumped at the chance” to have their mom sing Swift songs. Facebook/Selena Campione
She said her two young daughters “jumped at the chance” to have their mom sing Swift songs. Facebook/Selena Campione

He discovered a low-grade glioma, a slow-growing tumor, on the left side of her brain, and proposed an awake craniotomy to remove it.

Keeping patients awake for this kind of brain surgery helps doctors know what to touch during the procedure.

Campione’s tumor, for instance, was located in the part of her brain responsible for speech and motor capability.

“I couldn’t even believe that was a possibility,” she said. “I didn’t even know that you could have brain surgery and be awake.” Facebook/Selena Campione
“I couldn’t even believe that was a possibility,” she said. “I didn’t even know that you could have brain surgery and be awake.” Facebook/Selena Campione

Patients should be able to recite their name, repeat words or phrases and talk in general, Patel explained, and if there is an error while conducting those actions, then that is a “critical area” of the brain.

“When we get to the surface of the brain, before we touch anything, which could potentially cause permanent damage, we want to know what we’re getting into,” the docs told Fox News. “It’s high-end real estate.”

“We could do it the boring way … or we can do it a bit more of an exciting way, and I found singing is particularly very helpful,” he added.

So, he had Campione sing — Taylor Swift songs, that is.

She said her daughters “jumped at the chance” for her to sing along to the hitmaker’s chart-topping songs, since they’re playing in her house “all the time” anyways.

“So, I — of course — was ready to sing Taylor,” Campione said.

Patel said he was “testing her memory” of the song lyrics — “she should be able to sing along,” he said — and assured her that, as a Swiftie himself, he would be able to notice if she “mis-phrases something or says a word the wrong way.”

“Basically, she did the Eras Tour for us,” Patel said of Campione. Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
“Basically, she did the Eras Tour for us,” Patel said of Campione. Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

Campione said she “felt nothing” during the procedure and only recalls “vaguely” hearing “Shake It Off” while under the knife, but Patel said she sang along to “22,” “Bad Blood” and “You Need to Calm Down.”

“Basically, she did the Eras Tour for us,” he quipped.

Meanwhile, Campione didn’t even know her head was open.

“I don’t want to discount the complexity of everything that’s involved in doing a brain surgery,” Patel added.

“But at the same time, I feel like the only way to really help patients get through the shock of going through any type of brain surgery is to have a touch of humor.”

While she missed her daughter’s birthday, her work and her students, Campione now feels “fantastic,” and has since decreased the amount of medications she takes to just one.