Quality of Life
Patient Name : Eleanor Amato
Eleanor Amato sat back in the uncomfortable waiting room chair a nervous wreck. The nurse called for Bob Lee, her boyfriend of twenty-five years, and took him for some preliminary tests to prepare for his colon cancer surgery still two days away. As soon as the door closed behind them, Eleanor started sweating profusely.
“Everything is getting blurry,” Eleanor thought as she tried to blink and squint to bring the magazines into focus. “I can hardly see,” she murmured as she wiped the sweat from her eyes. Eleanor leaned over to the woman sitting beside her and said with urgency, “I don’t feel good. I really don’t feel good.”
The woman called for a nurse who came out to test Eleanor’s blood pressure – it was very high. Eleanor tried to move towards the stretcher they had brought for her, but she could not seem to walk straight. She started falling. They rushed her to the emergency room.
“Mr. Lee, it appears your girlfriend is having a heart attack,” a nurse explained to Bob before his procedure had begun. By the time he got to the ER though, Eleanor felt better. The nausea had passed and she had taken nitroglycerin for her heart. She felt fine, except for the persistent buzzing in her right ear.
The VA hospital transported Eleanor to another local Gainesville hospital for treatment, since she was not a veteran. On the ambulance ride, she continued to hear the buzzing in her ear. Upon arrival, doctors ran further tests, including a stress test, and concluded that she had not suffered a heart attack. However, Eleanor went home not knowing what caused the strange and frightening episode.
Eleanor’s cousin, a nurse, called about two months later. After listening to Eleanor’s experience at the VA hospital and about the two additional times she fell in the yard after becoming dizzy, she said, “Feeling so dizzy and nauseous that it seems like you are experiencing a heart attack, this really sounds like Meniere’s Disease.” Her cousin described the symptoms precisely because she too suffered from the difficult to diagnosis disease.
Eleanor awoke the morning following a delightful dinner with her friend from New Jersey excited to talk with Bob about the evening. In the middle of the conversation, she asked, “Are you hot?” “No,” Bob said as he looked over. Eleanor had sweat cascading down her face. Her face drew tight. Twenty minutes passed and Eleanor still had no relief. Fearing she was having a heart attack, Bob drove her to the emergency room. Again the diagnosis came back that her heart was fine.
Eleanor lived a nightmare. The frequency of these attacks increased and so did her fear. She did not want to leave her home fearing she would become dizzy and ill. She feared eating certain foods that she thought might be triggering the episodes. Would she faint when she drove? Would she fall down another flight of stairs? Would Bob have to finish the grocery shopping because she got sick again? Nothing was left of her life. She did not want to leave her home.
Eleanor’s ear, nose, and throat doctor in New Smyrna referred her to a doctor in Celebration to help her with the imbalance she experienced. As he offered her the options, Eleanor knew her only option was surgery, she could not live several more years with these symptoms.
Neurosurgeon Max Medary, MD, met Eleanor’s gaze when she entered his office at Orlando Regional Sand Lake Hospital a week later. After listening to her describe her experiences, Dr. Medary confirmed she had Meniere’s Disease. He explained that he could cut the balance nerve away from the hearing nerve and then disconnect the balance nerve from her brain. This would not correct the hearing she had already lost, but it would prevent any further loss. He went on to explain that after the surgery she would feel worse before she felt better. The dizziness and resulting nausea would be worse until the balance nerve from the left side took over. “Hearing Dr. Medary give his counsel was like getting good advice from a dear friend – that works,” Eleanor explains.
Eleanor, not an amateur when it came to surgeries, was petrified to have surgery on her head. When Dr. Medary came in before the scheduled surgery to explain again to Eleanor what to expect, she only had one thing to say, “Just keep me alive!”
After the thirty-minute surgery, Eleanor woke in her room. She lay very still in the bed trying not to move her head; she did not want the dizziness to begin. She felt good. She looked around slowly, still holding her head very still—she felt no dizziness, no nausea. Even when Eleanor stood for the first time, a nurse on one side and Bob on the other, she did not sway, but walked steadily to the bathroom.
“When I pushed the button to call for a nurse, she was there immediately. The care at Sand Lake Hospital was fantastic,” Eleanor praises. When Eleanor learned she could order room service at any time of the day she was completely surprised. Sand Lake Hospital was like none other she had ever experienced.
Dr. Medary brought highly magnified pictures of the procedure for Eleanor. He explained to Bob and her exactly what he had done using the pictures. Being able to see the intricate work made them both appreciate his precision. “Dr. Medary came to see me three times a day,” Eleanor shares. “He was fantastic. It was such a nice thing for him to do.” A week after the surgery, she returned for a visit with Dr. Medary. He went to remove her stitches and Eleanor said in surprise, “You are going to do it?” “You had surgery. Your surgeon should take them out,” he replied with a smile as he expertly removed the stitches. Eleanor again sat in awe of the humble man; he was like no doctor she had ever had.
Before the surgery, fear, worry, and terrifying episodes of heart-attack-like symptoms riddled Eleanor’s life. Now, thanks to Dr. Medary, Eleanor’s life has returned to normal. She can drive. She does not fear leaving her house. She can buy groceries and not wonder if she will be able to finish. “Dr. Medary gave Eleanor back her quality of life,” says Bob in heart-felt appreciation.