After enduring a traumatic brain injury in 2006, a man lost part of his hearing but acquired musical genius, TODAY reports.
Derek Amato is now a professional piano player, but he can't read music and has never been taught how to play the instrument. In fact, until a few years ago, Amato had only dabbled in some drum and guitar playing -- and he wasn't very good at either.
But a serious accident soon changed all that.
In October 2006, Amato suffered a serious concussion after hitting his head in a swimming pool.
According to a blog post he wrote for the Wisconsin Medical Society, he lost 35 percent of his hearing and suffered some memory loss.
But when he visited with a friend a few days after the accident, Amato said he felt inexplicably compelled to sit down at the keyboard.
"It was one of those moments when you just know. It was just drawing me to it," he told TODAY.
Placing his fingers on the keys, Amato began to play -- dexterously, beautifully.
"As I shut my eyes, I found these black and white structures moving from left to right, which in fact would represent in my mind, a fluid and continuous stream of musical notation," he wrote in the blog post.
"My fingers began to scale the piano keys as if I had played all of my life. I can't explain the feeling of awe that overcame my entire being, although I can tell you the expression on my friend's face was enough to put us both in tears."
According to Dr. Andrew Reeves of the Mayo Clinic, Amato is one of the few people in the world who has Acquired Savant Syndrome.
"The head injury changed his brain chemistry," said Reeves, adding that Amato's musical genius -- that combines music, visual and motor abilities -- is not only rare but also "very unique." According to a Science Channel documentary, Amato might be the only man in the world to have acquired such an ability.
For Amato, the concussion has been both a curse and a gift. He now suffers from severe migraines and a sensitivity to fluorescent lights that sometimes causes him to collapse.
He also constantly sees music streaming in front of his eyes.
Yet, he insists that he would not have it any other way.
"I think the headaches and the loss of hearing -- those things are sort of the price tag on this particular gift and I'm okay with that," he said.
Currently working on his second album, Amato said he hopes both his music and his story will inspire others.
"I'm convinced it's all for a reason and I think it's my job to do it right," he said.
For more on Derek Amato's story, watch this video from the Science Channel:
<strong>When and Where:</strong> July 2011, Spain A young man in his 20s underwent a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/12/double-leg-transplant-first_n_896442.html" target="_hplink">10-hour surgery in Valencia</a> just last Sunday to give him a new set of legs. Doctors hope that the patient will be able to walk with the help of crutches within about a year -- depending on how his nerves regenerate. A double-leg transplant had never been attempted before, in large part because in most cases of leg amputation, highly effective prosthetic legs can be used instead. The effectiveness of this surgery remains to be seen, but Dr. Pedro Cavadas, the doctor who performed the surgery, is hopeful. Dr. Cavadas <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/12/double-leg-transplant-first_n_896442.html" target="_hplink">also performed the first face and double-hand transplants</a> done in Spain. Photo Credit: Getty
<strong>When and Where:</strong> July 2011, Sweden Not only did this surgery mark the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/07/artificial-windpipe-transplant_n_892350.html" target="_hplink">first time an artificial windpipe was transplanted</a>, but it also marked the first time any synthetic organ had been transplanted. The windpipe was created in a lab in England and then coated in the patient's stem cells before the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/07/artificial-windpipe-transplant_n_892350.html" target="_hplink">12-hour surgery began</a>. These cells mean that he does not have to fear organ rejection, as most transplant patients do and is not on any sort of immunosuppressive drugs.
<strong>When and Where: </strong>March 2010, Spain Also performed in Spain, the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/26/oscar-first-full-face-tra_n_659196.html" target="_hplink">world's first full-face transplant</a> occurred just last year (the first partial-face transplant happened in 2005). The patient was a 31-year-old farmer who had accidentally shot himself in the face a few years prior. He is still undergoing physical therapy, although much of the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/26/oscar-first-full-face-tra_n_659196.html" target="_hplink">sensation in his face has returned</a> and his muscles have developed. Only a week after the transplant, he began to grow a beard. The <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/09/face-transplant-press-conference_n_859391.html?" target="_hplink">first full-face transplant in the United States</a> occurred this past May.
U.S. Double-Hand Transplant
<strong>When and Where:</strong> May 2009, Pittsburgh Although it was the ninth double-hand transplant in the world, the nine-hour surgery marked the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/06/double-hand-transplant-ge_n_198538.html" target="_hplink">first time that this procedure had been done in the United States</a>. Georgia native Jeff Kepner, 58, had lost his hands 10 years earlier to a bacterial infection. Although the surgery was an initial success, Kepner is <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/08/26/double.hand.transplant/index.html" target="_hplink">still undergoing intensive physical therapy</a> and has not regained full control over his new apendages. Photo Credit: Getty
More and more, technological innovation is the driving force behind saving lives through transplantation. At recent TED conferences, two lectures were given that clearly demonstrated the exciting progress that is on the horizon. At TEDMED 2010, thoracic surgeon, Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, M.D., <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/31/tedmed-2010-superorgans_n_811894.html" target="_hplink">showed the audience a machine that allows an organ to survive</a> for an extended period of time outside of the body at a normal temperature. This allows an organ to be examined and treated before it is put into the recipient's body. Keshavejee demonstrated the machine's efficacy by allowing audience members to come up at touch a live pig's lung that had been recovered earlier that day. At a TED conference this past March, <a href="http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-03-surgeon-kidney-ted-stage.html" target="_hplink">Dr. Anthony Atala used a bioprinting machine</a> to print out the mold of a human kidney. As this technology is developed further, scientists hope that it could eventually (most likely not for years) lead to the ability to print out fully-functional, artificial organs.