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 Acoustic Neuroma: Success Stories

Steuart H., Hurlock, MD
I am writing to share my experience with the Skull Base Institute and more importantly, Dr. Hrayr Shahinian, a surgeon that will always be a genius in my opinion.

My life consists of farming as my occupation and in 2006 I began to experience dizziness, imbalance problems, and headaches. In November 2007, I was diagnosed with a 5 x 4 mm acoustic neuroma on my left side via an MRI. This MRI was only ordered after my insistence that my otolaryngologist stop trying to guess at my condition whereby misdiagnosing me with numerous conditions such as; allergies, sinus infection, interear infections, stop drinking caffeine products, stop eating salt products, and on and on. I was in shock once the MRI report was returned and the results were an acoustic neuroma. After taking a few days to assess my diagnosis, the decisions by my medical doctor did not improve. Actually it worsened. It became a medical contest now. My otolaryngologist referred me to a surgeon/colleague at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. This experience was not only disheartening, but my visit was an actual shock. The specialist reviewed my records, met with my wife and I and acted as if I had no problem. He continued on by explaining that if I opted for surgery it would consist of removing a portion of my skull to access and remove the tumor. I would definitely lose my hearing on the left side, have facial paralysis, some balance problems, possibly eye problems and would need approximately 6 months to recuperate if everything went well. Otherwise "go home and live your life. Come back when you start having problems." My wife and I asked what problems to look for other than my reoccurring dizziness and imbalance and he replied, "when you start having seizures, have your doctor call me for an appointment." I took his advice and complied with his recommendation.

However, by complying with this doctor, my condition worsened. In May 2009, again I went to the otolaryngologist complaining of dizziness, balance problems, and headaches. The otolaryngologist sent me to a newly opened Balance Center at the local hospital. I went for 6 appointments, with no improvements. In August 2009 another MRI was ordered only to learn that my acoustic neuroma had grown. The diagnosis stated the 5.4 mm acoustic neuroma now measures 8.5 mm showing significant enhancement. At this time I was advised that surgery may be necessary. My doctor was referring me to John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and they would advise my otolaryngologist whether to schedule surgery now or continue to monitor my condition for possibly another year. I was instructed to contact them within the next 30 days with a decision.

Upon returning home and reliving everything that I had heard, my decision was to not return to either specialist and to seek further options. My wife went on the internet and researched my condition. This research sent her to the web page for Skull Base Institute in California. We studied what their treatments were and what needed to be done to see if I would be a possible candidate. Our first contact with Skull Base was "like a breath of fresh air and absolutely amazing."

I spoke with Roxy and Krystal and a few days later, I had the honor of getting a call from Dr. Shahinian. He is the most compassionate human being I have ever had the pleasure to speak with. My conversation with him clearly defined a surgeon that puts patient care to the forefront and state of the art medical care is all that is acceptable. My surgery was scheduled for September 2009. Upon my arrival in California, I was chauffeured to the Skull Base Institute, and met with Dr. Shahinian and his staff. I knew immediately upon entering the doors at the Skull Base Institute that I had made the right decision. Dr. Shahinian glows with confidence. He is very personable, carries himself with dignity and humility and is truly a medical genius. I had my surgery and everything went perfectly. I returned home in 7 days and was cutting grass the following Friday. When visitors come to our home, they are amazed at how well I am doing, and keep saying that it's a true miracle. If someone visits with no knowledge that I had brain surgery, they never know that I had a problem. My incision healed wonderfully, and I was back farming in 3 weeks. Hrayr Shahinian is a surgeon that has a miraculous gift from God and he uses that gift to help save lives.

Disturbingly, it was not until my tumor and the seriousness of my condition that I realized how much rivalry exists amongst the medical community. Let me give you an example: The otolaryngologist that I had been seeing for about 5 years has never contacted me since I returned home from my surgery because of not choosing to allow his friend/colleague at John Hopkins Hospital to perform the surgery. Actually, I had to contact a new doctor to get my staples removed!

I feel that Dr. Shahinian and his knowledge should be revered by the medical community, and other doctors should be embracing his work and referring their patients to him. Local doctors should realize that when a patient gets the diagnosis of a brain tumor, it leaves you with a lonely and hopeless feeling. Sure they will refer you to their colleagues, but most of the time it's with limited collaboration from the patient, and the surgery is done the archaic way. Now, whenever the opportunity presents itself and I hear of someone with a brain tumor, I refer them to Dr. Shahinian and the Skull Base Institute.

I have the utmost respect and admiration for Dr. Shahinian. He gave me life and it doesn't get any better than that. I hope and pray that others seeking answers with brain tumors will take their medical care in their own hands and contact Skull Base. It's amazing how Dr. Shahinian and Skull Base are actually looking into the future and still believe that medical care is about the patient and not financial gain. I recently read that he is collaborating with NASA scientists on the next generation of surgical instruments that will help surgeons more precisely remove tumors. He deserves accolades for being such a humanitarian that is gifted and passionate about medicine. He gave me the ultimate gift of life, and the only thing I can give in return is my humble gratitude and respect. He will always be in my family's prayers.


Steuart H.
Hurlock, MD

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