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Acoustic Neuroma: A Patient's Story

My name is Richard M. I am a 53 year old who enjoys boating, cross-country skiing and working in my yard.

In November, 2001 after years of nagging, by my wife of 33 years, I swallowed my vanity and went to see Dr. RK in Muskegon, Michigan because of my hearing loss. My idea was that I needed a hearing aid. Thanks to Dr. RK's thorough and comprehensive evaluation, we learned that hearing loss was not the only problem. The diagnosis was an acoustic neuroma, it was about 1 inch in size. Other than a hearing loss in my left ear I had no other symptoms of the tumor.

Dr. RK referred me to Dr. Jack Kartush at the Michigan Ear Institute. A referral for which I am extremely thankful. Dr. Kartush and the staff at the hospital treated me like I was their only patient. They spent all the time I needed discussing my options, the surgery and my recovery concerns.

The ''fear of the unknown'' between the diagnosis in November 2001 and my surgery date, January 17, 2002, was mentally devastating. This was to be my first stay in a hospital. I became extremely depressed and very anti-social.

That all went away the moment I woke up from surgery.

I had my surgery on Thursday, January 17, 2001, it lasted about 7 hours (so they tell me). The first thing I remember is waking up in the ICU to the voice of Dr. Kartush telling me I hit a home run. The tumor was completely removed, cancer free, and I had no facial palsy, I did lose the hearing in my left ear as a result of the surgery, but that was planned ahead of time, and I knew that was going to happen.

Friday morning they removed all the tubes and gadgets and I ate all my breakfast (cream of wheat - not my favorite meal). After breakfast I was able to get out of bed on my own and go to the bathroom unassisted (a move the ICU nurse did not appreciate). My physician was amazed by my quick recovery and progress. I told him I believed recovery from surgery was mostly mental and he somewhat agreed. I had no nausea, dizziness and no significant pain.

Saturday, I walked every hall and stairway I could find on the floor. Although I could not walk in a perfectly straight line I never hit the wall once. My physician visited me and told me that I could go home Saturday morning, if I wanted to, and I did.

After a week at home, I was ready to climb the walls, I was so bored! I was tired of cooking, washing clothes and washing dishes. I needed to be set free. Unfortunately, freedom had to wait a little more. I developed a little infection, which caused some minor facial palsy (weakness). However the infection and the facial palsy went away in about a week, with the help of a couple of prescriptions.

Dr. Kartush suggested that I shouldn't drive a car for a while. My wife agreed and she hid my care keys for three weeks and she wouldn't let me go anywhere alone. I felt like a little kid. After a couple more weeks passed, she allowed me to go to work for a few hours a day, if I could find a ride.

Four weeks after my surgery, my wife and I went to the Boat Show in Miami Florida. I flew on a plane and went out in the ocean on a boat, with no side effects of any kind, except my sea legs weren't as good as I thought they were.

In February 2002, I had my six week check-up and received a clean bill of health. The only restriction remaining from Dr. Kartush, was no bungee jumping. He told me that he would see me in about a year for a follow up.

Its been about 17 months since my surgery and I feel that I have recovered as much as I am going to. I had my 1 year follow-up visit to Dr. Kartush in early June 2003. He & I were both pleased with the results. There is no evidence of any further tumor growth and all systems are functioning properly. Dr. Kartush told me to come back in five years for a final
visit.

The scar has healed and looks like nothing more than another age wrinkle on my neck. The only issue that I have had any difficulty adjusting to is the complete loss of hearing in the left ear. I must concentrate more than before during conversations in open & noisy places, and it seems that I can only listen to one person at a time, this makes my wife mad because it is usually not her that I am listening to!

The surgery has had no affect on my cross-country skiing abilities or lack thereof, when I fall down now, at least I can blame it on something else.

The only thing that I must still be careful at is walking around on our boat. It seems that on the boat I do not have complete control of my balance. This has been only a minor inconvenience, no close-calls or accidents to date. My friends at the Marina keep threatening to tie a line around my waist in case I fall into the water getting on and off the boats.

Today is July 19, 2003. I had my surgery on January 17, 2002. The only side effect of my surgery is acute awareness of the value of modern medicine and respect for very good doctors who take a real interest in their patients needs and concerns.

- - - - - - - -

EDITOR's NOTE: Special thanks to Richard M., Dr. Jack Kartush and the Michigan Ear Institute for allowing us to reprint and update this article. Related personal accounts from other patients, and other hearing related information can be found on the Michigan Ear Institute (MEI) website. http://www.michiganear.com/library/A/acousticneuromastories.html

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