Guitar display at Mott Children's Hospital honors teen who donated brain to researchers

Dec 20, 2012

Laurence Carolin visits backstage with members of the band U2 at a concert in Chicago. The teen's Gibson guitar was signed by the band; it's now on display at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. Laurence died of a brain tumor in 2010.
Laurence Carolin visits backstage with members of the band U2 at a concert in Chicago. The teen's Gibson guitar was signed by the band; it's now on display at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor. Laurence died of a brain tumor in 2010.
Credit Courtesy Lisa Carolin

The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has put a Gibson guitar signed by the band U-2 on display.

The guitar is one of two gifts a Michigan teen left before he died.

Laurence Carolin was adopted from South Korea when he was five months old. He grew up  in Scio Township near Ann Arbor and loved music, soccer and cooking. He earned the money to pay for his guitar by cooking lunches for neighborhood children.

Laurence began suffering headaches and other symptoms in 2007. Doctors couldn't find the cause of his problems until just after Christmas that year, when he underwent a CT scan.

Laurence was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumor, called glioblastoma multiforme.

During the next two years, he underwent surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. When the treatments no longer helped, Laurence wrote  a note to his doctor. He said he wanted to donate his brain to science.

"It gave him that sense that it was worth something, and we made it happen and they made it happen, and it was a great thing," says Lisa Carolin, Laurence's mother.

Dr. Karin Muraszko, chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan, says his gesture deeply touched the staff.

"He said, 'Part of the problem is understanding how these tumors spread through the brain. Do you think after I die, it might be helpful to have my brain to be able to use it for research?'"

"This is a man who, as he learned more about his tumor, and what it meant for him, and the fact that he was  likely going to die from it, thought of ways in which he could contribute and help other people," Muraszko says.

Laurence was also granted a wish from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but donated his wish to the United Nations Foundation to help fight poverty in the Third World.

Laurence was the first child to donate a brain to the University of Michigan. Researchers say it will help them better understand how to treat brain tumors like the one that took Laurence's life.

He died on Jan. 15, 2010.

His beloved Gibson guitar is now part of a new installation on the third floor of C.S. Mott's Children's Hospital with a plaque detailing his story.