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Acoustic Neuroma: Pre-Op to Post-Op

My name is Ron Collier. I am a very active 67 year old man married for 45 years. I retired from after 35 years as CEO of a large credit union. My wife is an LPN, we have 5 children, four daughters and a son. The baby is 38 years old.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1998, I was treated in the emergency room (ER) for vertigo and dizziness. At that point, I had some hearing loss. I began seeing ear, nose and throat doctors (ENTs), neurologists, and my primary care physician to deal with the hearing loss and vertigo. Many hearing tests and medical tests were done. As time progressed, I suffered an increased loss of hearing, decreased sense of balance, and I had bouts of dizziness for about 3 years from 1998 to 2001.

Eventually, I was referred to Dr. Jack Kartush at the Michigan Ear Institute. By the time I met Dr. Kartush, I could no longer drive a car. I needed to run my hand along the wall of a room or hall to walk straight. My family members were doing all the driving. Dr Kartush and his team spent almost an entire day examining me, reviewing my personal history, my medical history and my CT scans. We returned home with orders from Dr. Kartush for physical therapy and an MRI before any decision would be made. I completed the lab work and MRI at our local hospital.

Four days after the MRI, I was contacted by Dr. Kartush's office and told I had a tumor called an acoustic neuroma. It was located between my ear and my brain. The size was comparable to a ping pall ball. We immediately went back to Dr. Kartush's office. He was surprised to find a tumor, but we were at the best possible place to handle this problem. After some discussion among my family and Dr. Kartush, we decided to go ahead with surgical removal of the tumor.

I was operated on at 9:00 in the morning on June 21, 2001. I awoke at 9:00 p.m. to the news that the surgery was a success. I was able to sit up. I didn't have nausea and I had only a little pain. My facial nerve was intact and appeared not to be damaged. The balance and hearing nerves were removed during surgery. I had quickly regained control of my balance and no longer suffered dizziness. There was no distortion of my face.

I was kept in the intensive care unit (ICU) for 12 hours, but after eating a full breakfast, I was transferred to the medical floor. Later on that same day, I was walking around. I needed a little help to the bathroom, but I had a good appetite. The next day I walked without a walker, under the supervision of the physical therapist. The third day I bathed myself and walked several times. Dr. Kartush's intern came to visit me and talked a little more about my surgery. Dr. Kartush stopped in Sunday evening around 9:00 p.m. We agreed that I could leave Monday morning. He was very pleased and surprised with my recovery. The above notes were written on August 8, 2001.

In August, 2003, I will return for my second annual post-op exam and visit with Dr. Jack Kartush. I will bring a current MRI, which I hope will be free of any evidence of a tumor. Two years after my operation, I have come to realize that my recovery is over, and I must learn to live with limitations caused by the acoustic neuroma. The hearing and balance nerves were removed from my left side during surgery. A hearing aid will not help me hear better on the left ear, as the nerve that connects the ear to the brain has been removed. Continued improvements in balance, through physical therapy, are not probable because I have only one inner ear that functions to guide my balance ability.

I have learned to use my eyes and my sense of touch to compensate. I have good days and bad days. Importantly, most of the days are good. The bad days are caused by weather, such as changes from high pressure to low pressure. High pressure summer days are good. I usually become inactive on bad days. Bad days are made much worse by a weak left ankle. For me, step ladders are an accident waiting to happen. I have played golf since I was 11 years old, and had a 10 handicap prior to my operation. I am playing golf again, but I have some balance problems where I swing hard from the tee. I believe I can overcome this, and I still love to play.

I must emphasize, I feel great most of the time and I am in good spirits, I will always be grateful that I was directed to Michigan Ear Institute and Dr. Jack Kartush. On a scale of 1 to 10, my quality of life now rates an 8, and I am two years post-op. Regarding the pre-op period, I would have rated my quality of life as a 3.
Anyone diagnosed with a large acoustic neuroma is faced with an awesome, yet simple decision. You have to consider the quality of life you can achieve and tolerate with a tumor growing in the head, and you have to weight that against surgery to remove the tumor. My wife, four daughters, and my son chose MEI and Dr. Jack Kartush to do my operation, due to his vast experience and state-of-the-art techniques.

EDITOR's NOTE: Special thanks to Dr. Jack Kartush and the Michigan Ear Institute for allowing us to reprint 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. Very special thanks to Ron Collier for allowing us to share and publish his story.

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