Skull Base Institute

Jim U., Racine, WI

Several years back, I discussed a hearing loss with my primary doctor during an annual physical. I thought I might need a hearing aid. He referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist who performed an audio test on me, then an MRI. The MRI came back showing that I had a 3.2cm acoustic neuroma. When I asked the ENT about removing the tumor, he was polite but very careful in not giving me too many details. He set me up with an otologist.

After his own audio exam – with the same results – the otologist explained the procedure for removing the tumor. I could not believe what I was hearing. The only symptom I was having at the time was hearing loss, yet it sounded like they would have to “mutilate my head” to remove it. The list of possible complications and potential long recovery were hard for me to accept. When I consulted with a neurosurgeon, my fears and anxiety continued to grow.

No one could believe the news. A friend’s wife did some research to learn more about acoustic neuromas and forwarded me the link to the Skull Base Institute website. The procedure I read about seemed too good to be true. It was just what I was looking for.

I talked with the top doctors in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Memphis. When I asked about endoscopic surgery, they all laughed. They each put on their selling hats and explained why their procedure was the best. Every doctor had his own opinion on what to do with the skullcap. I am not a doctor and cannot remember all the medical terms that were discussed, but I started to refer to standard procedure as the “Big Hole Procedure.” This procedure, in my mind, just was not acceptable in today’s age of technology.

It was hard for me to believe that Dr. Shahinian’s patients routinely left the hospital within 24 hours. I talked with four of his patients, and they all described leaving the hospital within a few days and the personal follow-up care given by Dr. Shahinian himself. After a phone consultation and review with Dr. Shahinian, I asked to be put on his surgery schedule immediately. That was one of the best decisions of my life. I was able to “lay to rest” much of my fear and anxiety.

I was surprised at how calm I felt. I was waiting for the extreme fear and panic to kick in, but it just never happened. I talked and laughed with Dr. Shahinian’s surgical team as they prepared me for surgery. The next 9 ½ hours seemed to pass in two seconds. Dr. Shahinian was pleased with the procedure, and the MRI done the next morning showed the tumor was completely gone.

My surgery was on Wednesday; Dr. Shahinian personally visited me on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. He called me from his home on Sunday and was back in my room on Monday. I elected to stay in the hospital over the weekend because of back pain unrelated to the surgery, although Dr. Shahinian officially released me on Friday morning. On Tuesday, I flew back to Wisconsin. Six months later, I got my FAA medical certificate back and was in my airplane flying.

I have described to my friends and other acoustic neuroma patients the skill and compassion Dr. Shahinian brings to his profession. I have referred to him as an “artist.”

The “Big Hole Procedure” may have been state-of-the-art 40 years ago but a lot has changed. Dr. Shahinian and the professional staff of the Skull Base Institute are making available a much better procedure today. I believe that doctors in this field would be doing their patients a favor by abandoning the antiquated barbaric procedure of the 1960s and updating their skills to this new procedure. Any doctor unwilling to re-educate himself should step aside and let the next generation of doctors continue the advancement of this cutting-edge procedure.

Jim U.
Racine, WI

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