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HeadLines - A Thank-You Gift for Two Surgeons
HeadLines Spring 2015
A Thank-You Gift for Two Surgeons
Date: February 18, 2015
Before coming to Johns Hopkins, Brenda Horrigan was told that her hearing loss was from normal aging. In October, Horrigan underwent potentially lifesaving surgery at Johns Hopkins to remove an acoustic neuroma.
In 2013, Massachusetts writer and editor Brenda Horrigan started getting a host of strange symptoms. First was an altered sense of balance, with the need to concentrate to walk straight. Second was a feeling of fullness in her right ear, but no signs of infection. Suddenly, shortly after an early 2014 trip to Bali and Hong Kong, she had the sensation that half her face had become paralyzed. Fearing a stroke, she rushed to the mirror to take a look—but she saw that everything moved normally and was just numb.
A series of specialists told Horrigan that her problems were just side effects of middle age, but she knew that something was terribly wrong. “I’m only 55, but it felt like I was getting old and feeble,” she remembers.
At a birthday party for her friend Sam Feldman, he and partner Marilyn Myerhoff—philanthropists who give to many causes, including Johns Hopkins—recommended that she might want to try again with a specialist there. Later, using Johns Hopkins’ website to query her symptoms, Horrigan came to a frightening realization: She had all the signs of an acoustic neuroma, a tumor that grows on the vestibulocochlear nerve, which connects the inner ear to the brain and plays a pivotal role in hearing and balance.
Feldman and Myerhoff placed a call to Johns Hopkins on her behalf, and soon, Horrigan had an appointment with neurotologist Charles Limb, who specializes in treating this condition. Sharing her concerns with him at their initial meeting, Limb told her that she was correct. An MRI taken before their appointment showed a mass spanning about 2.5 centimeters—about an inch.
She also had come in at the right time, Limb explained. Without intervention soon, the tumor would continue to grow, eventually threatening her life.
Having never been in a hospital for anything other than childbirth, Horrigan was frightened by the diagnosis and the eventuality of major brain surgery. But Limb and neurosurgeon colleague Michael Lim, who operates in tandem with Limb for acoustic neuroma surgeries, helped ease her mind, Horrigan remembers. Both doctors assured her that they’d get her through the procedure with the best outcome possible.
“Many great surgeons often don’t have great personalities,” she says, “but they were very compassionate and calm, and they propped me up when I needed it.”
In October 2014, Horrigan had surgery to remove the tumor. Nearly 12 hours later, when she woke up in recovery, Limb and Lim assured her that all had gone well. Though the tumor had taken its toll, rendering her deaf in one ear and causing some temporary facial weakness, she could finally start on the road to getting her life back.
Grateful to both physicians, Horrigan chose to give to Johns Hopkins. “When you concentrate your giving to places that really touch your life, it’s very fulfilling,” she says. “The idea that I could help Drs. Limb and Lim is just my way of saying thanks for being there when I needed them.”
For information, call 443-287-2124. Visit hopkinsmedicine.org/otolaryngology.