Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery
In the News... Patient Stories
New Hearing Loss Device Works Without Surgery
This hearing device is part of a trend towards developing less conspicuous hearing devices for those with impaired hearing due to aging or complete hearing loss, which may result from genetic factors, autoimmune conditions, or illnesses. Read how Maxine's hearing experience has improved significantly.
- New hearing loss device works without surgery (BostonGlobe.com, December 2012)
- Advances in implantable devices for hearing loss (Boston.com, December 2012)
Nick Heald was a 16-year-old singer and active member of his drama club in South Glens Falls, New York, when his drama club teacher noticed something unusual about his voice last summer.
She recorded him singing and compared it to a recording of him the year before, noting that his voice had changed. The change, coupled with a persistent sore throat, prompted the teenager to visit his doctor. What doctors initially thought was acid reflux and then tonsillitis turned out to be a synovial sarcoma on the back of his tongue, a rare form of cancer that usually occurs near the joints of the arm or leg. Knowing that cancer specialists could best treat the tumor, Heald’s doctors at Albany Medical Center referred him to Boston Medical Center, the preferred tertiary care provider for head and neck cancer care in New England.
Enter Scharukh Jalisi, MD, FACS, Director, Head and Neck Surgery and Skull Base Surgery at BMC. Jalisi met with Heald, reviewed his options, and devised a treatment plan to shrink Heald’s tumor using chemotherapy and radiation and then remove it using a minimally–invasive robotic procedure called transoral robotic surgery (TORS).
Using TORS, BMC surgeons can remove both benign and cancerous tumors of the throat, larynx and neck while sparing the patient a large incision and a recovery time of several weeks. BMC was the first hospital in New England to offer this new treatment and to date, has successfully performed the procedure on 30 patients, including Heald.
Nick with his girlfriend Courtney in June 2011
“First we were able to shrink Nick’s tumor by 75 percent,” says Jalisi. “Then we used the Davinci robot to remove the tumor in one day. By using TORS, we spared Nick from a five-inch incision from his jaw to his chest, a drastic procedure that would have required cracking his jaw open to reach the cancer and a recovery time of at least two weeks. This method also allowed us to preserve speech, swallowing, and other key quality of life issues.”
To ensure the cancer was gone, Heald received follow-up chemotherapy and radiation in his home state for a short time following the surgery. That spring, he participated in his school play, “Charlie Brown,” in which he played Linus, one of the main characters. He also graduated on time with his class. Now completely cancer free, he plans to attend community college this fall.
“I’m feeling great and am back to normal,” says Heald. “Boston Medical Center was awesome. Everyone was really nice and worked well together. I’m very grateful for the care I received there.”
“Our experience was wonderful,” says Amy Gurdo, Heald’s mother. “From the moment we met Dr. Jalisi, we felt comfortable. He spelled out all the options for us, and even when he explained the worst-case scenario, we left his office feeling better. All the care Nick received, from physicians and nurses, was fabulous. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”
Steven Brown is a natural storyteller. He came to Boston Medical Center with a cancerous tumor in his neck that required a total laryngectomy.Today, Steven is cancer-free and back to telling stories. The jovial 64-year-old never forgets a face and is always looking for the opportunity to share a joke, but today, he no longer takes his gift for gab for granted.