On January 10th, we made our first trip to University Medical Center in Baltimore. That day, we were meeting with two surgeons: Dr. Eisenman (read his bio: http://www.umm.edu/doctors/david__eisenman.html) for the skull base tumor (the one behind his right ear) and Dr. Scott Strome (read his bio: http://www.umm.edu/doctors/scott_e_strome.html) for the carotid body (paraganglioma tumors).
After a three-hour-plus wait in the office, we saw Dr. Eisenman, and after our consult with him, we left the exam room confident that he would be successfully able to remove the tumor with little difficulty and that, provided everything went well, the hearing in Leigh’s right ear would be restored.
After meeting with Dr. Eisenman, we went to a neighboring room to meet with Dr. Strome. Yemi, the nurse practitioner came in and set everything up for Leigh’s vocal cords to be scoped, and a little while later, we met with Dr. Strome. All I can say about him is that we absolutely LOVE this doctor!!! He’s got a great bedside manner, and was able to answer all our questions and explain things in terms that we can understand.
This is what he told us: first, these tumors are rare, and it’s even more rare to have them bilaterally (on both sides). They’re typically not cancerous, but they will be biopsied after surgery to confirm that fact. The surgeries are full of dangers, particularly stroke and nerve damage to nearly every moving part from the shoulders up. But, they HAVE to come out; they’re huge as far as these types of tumors are concerned. Dr. Strome said that if Leigh were a 70-year-old man, he would not hesitate to offer radiation therapy to stop the growth, but, unfortunately, that is simply not an option in our case.
We left the office knowing that there would be two surgeries: one to address the carotid body tumor and the skull base tumor on the right side, and then the left side would be addressed about six months after his recovery from the first surgery.
Dr. Strome referred us to Dr. Lal, a vascular surgeon that would be assisting with the surgery. Dr. Lal ordered an MRI series of the abdomen since these tumors typically present themselves in the adrenal glands.
We met with Dr. Lal that Friday, and we were very relieved to find that Leigh did not have any tumors in his abdomen. Aside from the risks that Dr. Strome had noted, Dr. Lal was also confident that the surgeries would be effective. Each surgery would consist of two surgeries: an embolization the day prior to the surgery and the surgery itself. The embolization is a procedure where they will thread a small catheter through a vein in his groin, up to the tumor and place tiny coils in the blood vessels feeding the tumors. These coils will block off the blood vessels and reduce the amount of bleeding during the surgery.
Following our appointment with Dr. Lal, we made our way back to Dr. Strome’s office, and met with Dr. Wright, his resident. The embolization was scheduled for Monday, January 31st, and the surgery would be the following day, February 1st.