GVSU professor celebrates 10 year anniversary of awake brain surgery

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ALLENDALE, Mich. — A GVSU professor and Allendale middle school biology teacher is celebrating a big milestone this month: his 10-year anniversary of awake brain surgery.

Keith Piccard was diagnosed with epilepsy at a young age and underwent surgery at 27 to rid his body of the seizures that began when he was just 6 months old. Piccard knew the risks, but after living with epilepsy for 27 years, he decided it was time for a change.

Now, ten years post-op, Piccard is seizure free.

"The first thing I said when I woke up was, 'I had brain surgery. I'm fixed,'" Piccard said, adding that once he realized he was missing a quarter of his brain, he had a new outlook on life.

Keith Piccard

The man of science

"I could have died there," he said. "You gain a greater appreciation of life and realize we’re not here forever."

The procedure was unusual: While doctors at the University of Michigan removed a portion of Piccard's temporal lobe, he remained awake.

"It was fun," he said. "It took me back to anatomy and physiology, because you’re awake while they’re drilling into your head, removing the temporal plate, talking you through step by step."


Keith and Family

Keith and Family

"It’s science. It’s awesome. Who in life gets to say, I got to see my brain? I did. That was cool."

"It’s very, very vivid in my brain, you know, 10 years ago but I still remember quite a bit of it," he said.

Even with a quarter of his brain missing, Keith never lost any of his functions. The only thing he says is different is his voice.

Today, Piccard is celebrating his health with his wife, two children, and his students. He tells FOX 17 a lot has changed since he lost a quarter of his brain, but his passions for teaching and science never went away.

In fact, his classroom is filled with reptiles, fish and pictures of his brain.

Keith's brain on his classroom's wall

Keith's brain on his classroom's wall

"I use that as a motivation with my students," Piccard said. "If you can make a difference in someone’s life, do it."

To this day, Piccard continues to remind students to keep pushing, no matter the obstacles they face, because success is nothing more than a state of mind.

Keith's neurosurgeon, Oren Sagher from U of M says that not only is this a huge milestone for Keith, but a milestone for those with epilepsy as well.

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