Young musician debuts procedure with oboe in Mayo Clinic's OR - KMSP-TV

Young musician debuts procedure with oboe in Mayo Clinic's OR

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KMSP) -

Mara Reed is a young, Minnesota musician who had to make a tough choice -- give up her love of an instrument or try something drastic to keep playing. She chose the latter, and this is her story.

Performing in front of a big crowd while television news crews follow your every move is bound to bring big-time pressure, but the serious palm-sweating stress came when Reed had to put on a show with a camera shoved up her nose and a rather large needle poking into the roof of her mouth.

"She went through this because she wants to help other people," her father, Dale Reed, told Fox 9 News.

For Mara Reed, playing oboe is her passion. All the stresses of the day -- the ups, the downs -- get blasted into that tiny mouthpiece and come out as something wonderful.

"It's a real stress relief," she said.

Dr. Shelagh Cofer, at the Mayo Clinic, explained that frequent throat and sinus infections threatened to end her relationship with the instrument she loves. Antibiotics could no longer clear things up. Her tonsils and adenoids had to go -- but when they went, so did her ability to get a sweet sound.

"There was too much air escaping and I couldn't maintain pressure," Mara Reed explained.

Sometimes, the smooth reed sounded more like a snort.

"It's almost a grunting sound that you get," Bill Henry, director of the band at Eastview High, told Fox 9 News. "It's like trying to hold your breath. 'I can't quite get the air going' -- that's sort of what happened."

Henry suggested that Mara Reed should consider trying another instrument, but the All State musician would have none of that.

"I think she really liked the idea of getting it fine-tuned," Cofer remarked.

So, Cofer dreamed up a sort of surgical sonata to help Mara Reed get her sound back.

"She really didn't have any other options besides the surgery at that point," Cofer said.

In order for the procedure to work, however, Mara Reed had to deliver the most pressure-packed performance of her life by playing the oboe in the middle of the operation so that Cofer could plug the leak in her palate that has been messing with her music.

"For the most part, I was awake and knew what was going on," she recalled.

With just enough sedative to calm her nerves, a scope with a camera was inserted through her nose so that surgeons could get a look at the back of her throat. The bubbles that appeared as she played showed where the problem was. After watching the air escape, Cofer injected a filler material into the tissue to try and close the gap -- and the results came quickly.

"As I got the first injection, it was a little easier to get out the high notes," Mara Reed said.

The production was a work in progress -- a medical maestro prodding with a needle and a musician responding with a melody until the final crescendo moment. After 45 minutes, practice made perfect and there was no sign -- visual or sensory -- of any air leak.

"I'm amazed and I'm really proud of her," Dale Reed said.

A new procedure that may help others with a similar problem was born, and the true test came when Mara Reed played the final concert of her high school career. It was a chance to shine in front of her family and friends one last time, and her father says she has never sounded better.

"I'm kind of a perfectionist, so I'm not always completely happy -- but I'm pretty happy with tonight," Mara Reed said.

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