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HeadLines - Finding a Trusted Surgeon, from States Away

HeadLines Spring 2015

Finding a Trusted Surgeon, from States Away

Date: February 18, 2015


Even small details, such as being a stickler for keeping appointments running on time, showed that Eisele cared about his patients and kept his practice running like a tight ship.	–Jubenal Gonzalez
"Even small details, such as being a stickler for keeping appointments running on time, showed that Eisele cared about his patients and kept his practice running like a tight ship." –Jubenal Gonzalez

In November 2012, Connecticut firefighter and paramedic Jubenal Gonzalez was engaged in one of life’s most mundane activities—shaving—when he found something that had the potential to change the course of his future. While stretching the skin on his neck to get a better angle, he discovered a lump about the size of a pea underneath his jawbone.

Jubenal didn’t say anything to his wife, Michelle, a nurse practitioner, for nearly a week. When he did tell her, he says that she instinctually knew what would happen next. “She told me that it was cancer, and that it had to come out,” he remembers.

Even before he had a definitive diagnosis, Michelle suggested that Jubenal consider treatment beyond their local options. With good insurance through his job, she reminded him, he could choose the best place for treatment in the country. A careful researcher by nature, Michelle did a thorough medical literature search, looking for which physicians had performed the most well-regarded research. Eventually, he says, she focused on David Eisele, director of the Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The couple ventured from their home state to Baltimore for their initial appointment in January of the next year. After an MRI and a fine needle aspiration biopsy, Eisele confirmed their worst fears. Though the vast majority of cancers in the parotid gland, where Jubenal’s mass was located, are benign, his was indeed cancerous. Jubenal needed a parotidectomy, surgery to remove the lump and assess whether his cancer had spread.

Though he’d never had surgery of any kind before, Jubenal remembers feeling confident in his physician. Eisele, he says, had always taken plenty of time at his appointments, explaining everything in detail, both at his and Michelle’s different levels of understanding. Even small details, such as being a stickler for keeping appointments running on time, showed that Eisele cared about his patients and kept his practice running like a tight ship, Jubenal adds.

On the day of Jubenal’s surgery in February 2013, Eisele successfully removed the mass and biopsied nearby lymph nodes, providing further evidence that the cancer hadn’t spread. Though tumors of this type can sometimes impinge upon the facial nerve, important for facial movement, Jubenal’s luckily hadn’t, assuring no side effects from the surgery, such as facial paralysis. Eisele was even able to hide the inevitable surgical scar in a natural fold on Jubenal’s skin.

“He really could not have done better,” Eisele says, “and his prognosis for the future is excellent.”

Though Jubenal’s job comes with a host of dangers, cancer was frightening in its own way, he says. “Firefighting has calculated risks, but with cancer, it’s out of your control,” he says. “The best thing you can do is support yourself with finding a good physician that you really believe and trust in.”

 

For information, call 443-287-2124. Visit hopkinsmedicine.org/otolaryngology.

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