The House Clinic: A Long History of Success & Leadership In the Acoustic Neuroma Treatment Community
According to Frank J. Cracolici, president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center in downtown Los Angeles, the world-renowned House Clinic “attracts some of the best and brightest neurotologists and neurosurgeons in the world, dedicated to the treatment of disorders affecting hearing and balance, including acoustic neuroma and other types of brain tumors."
The clinic has evaluated and treated more than 10,000 patients with benign tumors involving the inner ear and surrounding structures since the early 1960’s. “If surgical intervention is needed,” Cracolici, added, “the House Associates partner with our experienced and highly skilled surgical team at St. Vincent to perform the procedure.”
Founded in 1943 by Dr. Howard P. House, an ear, nose and throat specialist who later developed a national reputation for his many successful hearing restoration surgeries, The House Clinic now has eight ear specialists on staff. Six of the ear specialists perform ear surgery, one associate specializes in allergic diseases of the ear and one associate specializes in evaluating and treating dizzy patients. In addition to the ear specialists, there are two associates who specialize in neurosurgery.
Readers interested in learning more about the clinic, its staff and services are urged to visit its detailed website at www.houseclinic.com.
The clinic is located across the street from St. Vincent Medical Center at 2100 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90057. Phone number is (213) 483-9930.
American Ninja and Acoustic Neuroma Warrior
By Charlotte Eccles
I knew from the day I was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma that I would face struggle and hardship but I also made a promise to myself on that day that I would use my struggle to help others.
I was diagnosed 2 1/2 years ago with my acoustic neuroma and had a middle fossa craniotomy four weeks later with Dr. Derald Brackmann and Dr. Marc Schwartz at the House Clinic Acoustic Neuroma Center at St. Vincent Medical Center.
Although the surgery was a success because the tumor was removed and the surgeons were able to preserve my hearing, my balance nerve was cut during the operation. Immediately after surgery, I had significant challenges with balance and coordination. I also experienced temporary facial paralysis from compression to the facial nerve when my brain swelled in the ICU.
I was a mom with two young daughters. I'm a pediatric physical therapist that fiercely advocates for children with special needs to believe in themselves despite their differences. My life changed in a heartbeat. I was no longer the therapist. I was now the patient with a long road to recovery ahead of me.
I underwent aggressive physical therapy. I stayed out in California for a month and then went back to Houston to continue intense physical therapy.
Six months after surgery, I transitioned from a conventional outpatient physical therapy setting into a ninja gym, with a physical therapist and trainer who happened to be an American Ninja Warrior competitor. I remember the first day I walked into the ninja gym. All the obstacles that I saw were so parallel with the obstacles in life I was facing. In that moment, I knew it was going to be the place that I took back everything my tumor had stolen, physically, from me.
It's been a long journey for me. It has not only been a physical fight but a constant mental battle as well. But looking back, it has been an experience so valuable and one that I can honestly say I'm grateful for this blessing in disguise for I have become so much stronger and have grown in unimaginable ways.
The craziest part of the whole journey is that I was picked to compete this season on American Ninja Warrior. I competed in the Spring in San Antonio. My episode aired on June 19 (www.nbc.com).
I couldn't be more excited to share my journey with the world. If someone told me when I was laying in the ICU that in two years I would be competing on American Ninja Warrior, I probably would have cried and I definitely would not have believed them. It would have sounded like a cruel joke.
The opportunity to compete on the show means more to me than words can express. I want people to see the abilities in their disabilities and to recognize what a never give up attitude can do for them, to truly believe in no limitations and that anything is possible. I feel like all of us who have faced this adversity have been given a unique opportunity.
We get to use our adversity to be a light, to give others hope, and make a difference.
Hand in Hand
Robin Hand, a House Clinic patient
It is hard to believe that anyone would call having a benign brain tumor requiring surgery a blessing but that is the way Robin Hand, a House Clinic patient, describes her experience. “I did not choose to have a tumor, however, I did get to choose my physicians and hospital for treatment. This experience and journey wasn’t something I had to endure. The journey has been a blessing in my life and an investment in my future,” Robin Hand explained.
Although she had difficulty driving for eleven years, and intermittent balance problems, it was when the ringing in her right ear started that Hand decided to go to an ENT. Her hearing test was normal but a MRI showed an acoustic neuroma. As a trained nurse practitioner, Hand did her homework to research her treatment options. “Everything I read indicated that you need a place that specializes in treating acoustic neuromas and performs a large number of these surgeries,” said Hand. “When I found the House Clinic online, I knew that I needed to get a second opinion.”
She sent her MRI to the House Clinic Acoustic Neuroma Center at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles for a second opinion. “When determining the course of treatment for an acoustic neuroma, it is important to remember that very few situations are urgent and there is usually time to get multiple opinions,” said Dr. Eric Wilkinson, surgeon and partner at the House Clinic. Their joint decision was to watch, wait, repeat the MRI in six months and re-evaluate.
The next MRI showed the tumor had grown. Since her hearing test was still normal, Dr. Wilkinson advised that due to the growth of the tumor, surgery was necessary “fairly quickly” for a chance to save her hearing. Three weeks later, Hand flew to Los Angeles for surgery. She credits the House Clinic surgeons, the internist, and the St. Vincent operating room staff and the nurses, for creating such a positive healing environment. “Having a medical background, I scrutinized everything and was continually impressed with the outstanding level of care I received. I know my great outcome is because I went to the best place,” said Hand. Dr. Wilkinson and Dr. Marc Schwartz, House Clinic neurosurgeon, were able to completely remove the tumor as well as preserve her hearing.
“Every case is unique and our vast experience with a large volume of patients allows us to be prepared for any specific situation,” said Dr. Schwartz. “All members of the team including not only the surgeons but also the anesthesiologists, nurses and therapists are focused on acoustic neuroma treatment.” Although she experienced some balance issues immediately after surgery, Robin attended a concert in Los Angeles on day eight. Hand went back to work fulltime six weeks after surgery.
“Robin had an outstanding outcome, what all of us in this field strive for and which motivates us. She was ahead of the curve, not everyone is ready to go to a concert right after surgery, and continues to be an inspiration,” said Dr. Wilkinson.
“I’ve had years of struggling with not feeling well when driving, even to the point of car sickness, and thinking I was having anxiety related to a previous auto accident. What a blessing to be able to get in the car and enjoy driving again,” said Hand.
Air Force Doctor Impressed with His AN Treatment at The House Clinic
By Don Prial
For U.S. Air Force Colonel Dave Duval, the problem in his right ear was more of an annoyance than a concern. He had been a medical evacuation doctor serving with a squadron of Army Blackhawk helicopters during a tour of duty in Iraq in 2005-06.
During his recovery, Dave Duval enjoys
He first suspected that the hearing loss he was experiencing stemmed from the incredibly high noise levels produced during flights when radio communications did not always work and he was forced to remove his headphones.
However, nine years after he first became aware of his hearing loss, Col. Duval realized that something more serious was occurring inside his ear. He began to seek medical advice from his colleagues to diagnose and hopefully cure what ailed him. In 2012, he learned from an MRI that, in fact, he had an acoustic neuroma.
Col. Duval is head of aerospace medicine for the Air Force’s Special Operations Command headquartered at Hurlburt Field in Florida. He had never even met anyone in his personal or professional life who had an acoustic neuroma.
“I realized through the results of my annual Air Force physical that my hearing was declining,” Duval recalled. “And then when I started turning my head I became dizzy.” Soon, his wife Caslyn, noticed that he would sometimes walk like he was drunk if he had no visible horizon onwhich to focus. “Soon, I needed a night light to even walk in a dark room.”
Realizing that surgery most likely was his only alternative for recovery, Col. Duval did his due diligence and came across the extensive surgery programs offered by The House Clinic Acoustic Neuroma Center at St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles.“Like any inquisitive patient, I quickly realized that House was what doctors call a center of excellence in that they perform so many acoustic neuroma surgeries each year that their outcomes had to be superb.”
It was a finding demonstrated in detail by Dr. William H. Slattery III, Vice President of the House Clinic. “Although these tumors occur in only one person in 100,000 nationally, we’ve done procedures for decades and I’ve treated more than 1,000 patients myself during my 23 years here at House,” Dr. Slattery said.
Col. Duval noted that, at first, his insurance company tried to convince him to have the operation done nearby his base in Florida. “I talked to those guys and they were nice enough, but I learned that they might perform only 50 of these operations in a year, while House Clinic is operating on more than 200 cases annually. And I know as well as anyone that experience is what leads to great outcomes, so the trip to Los Angeles was a no-brainer.”
What especially impressed Col. Duval was the level of professionalism — “beyond anything I could have asked for” — demonstrated by Dr. Slattery and his colleague, Dr. Marc Schwartz, a House Clinic neurosurgeon, including ensuring that his wife was present at all the briefings and conversations that took place.
According to Col. Duval, his recuperation since his June 2nd operation has progressed as predicted, noting that despite early experience with nausea, he has not felt any dizziness or related after-effects.
And what did he feel was the crucial ingredient in his recovery so far? “Sleep,” he declared immediately. “It was a taxing experience, so it has just been sleep.” Dr. Slattery concurs, adding that all parties are looking forward to a scheduled follow-up exam in a few months.
Note: In no case does ANA endorse any commercial product, physician, surgeon, medical procedure, medical institution or its staff.