Rare surgery helps local artist hear life to the fullest

marjory seitz in her art-filled Champaign homeFor Wes and Marjory Seitz, life is an adventure. Exotic cruises and jazz concerts fill just a portion of their yearly bucket list.

It’s hard for the retired couple to believe they were in danger of losing all that just a few months ago.

“I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t hear my brother at our family Christmas,” Marjory said.

As months passed, her hearing didn’t improve.

“I made an appointment with Audiology,” Marjory said. “They told me I have no hearing at all in my left ear and that my right ear isn’t good, either.”

Doctors soon discovered the reason.

Marjory had developed an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous tumor between the brain and skull. Acoustic neuromas often cause impaired hearing and loss of balance. If left unchecked, they can be fatal.  

For Marjory, the tumor meant not being able to hear her family, friends or jazz music. And it meant surgery.

“(For me) the surgery was not optional. The only thing I could choose was where to have it done,” she said.

Wes and Marjory looked to the expertise of Dr. Ryan Porter.

A Carle neurotologist, an otolaryngologist who has additional surgical training in hearing and balance disorders, Dr. Porter performs several acoustic neuroma surgeries each year.  Neurology Drs. William Olivero and John Wang work closely with Dr. Porter to provide a comprehensive team approach to removing these delicate tumors.

“I was at first stunned and nervous about it all—but Dr. Porter was calm and confident. He knew exactly what he was talking about,” Marjory said.

For Dr. Porter, these surgeries serve as an opportunity to help patients through a challenging time.

“You’re taking a patient through something scary and helping to counsel them through it,” Dr. Porter said. “Our goal is to maintain or improve the patient’s balance and give them usable hearing in some way.

“That might be through a hearing device or other means.”

Wes still remembers when Dr. Porter told him the outcome of his wife’s surgery.

“Dr. Porter talked with me twice after the surgery,” Wes said. “The first time, he said the surgery went well, but they were not sure about Marjory’s facial nerve.

"The second visit, he came in with a great big smile on his face. He told me that Marjory’s face was working just fine.” 

It took Dr. Porter and his team 10 hours to complete the surgery.

It seemed like it took even less time for Marjory to be back to her old self.

“I wanted to leave the hospital that day, but had to stay the weekend,” Marjory said. “Dr. Porter knew I had a reputation for being adventurous, so he was clear that I needed to rest.”

Marjory Sietz flower paintingMarjory was eager to return to her artwork after she got out of the hospital. Portraits of flowers, foreign landscapes and family members adorn the walls of her home. Reflecting on her recovery, Marjory painted a picture of an average day with impaired hearing.

"The hardest part was interacting with others. I discovered that people would get irritated by my lack of hearing," she said.

“My hearing made me want to avoid conversations that might be awkward."

That phase of Marjory's life will soon be behind her.

This fall, Marjory took the final step in getting her hearing back by having her BAHA installed. The bone-anchored hearing device is restoring her ability to hear from both sides of her body.

Picking up right where they left off, Wes and Marjory already have their next adventure in the works.

"The Upper Amazon," Marjory said. "It's a beautiful boat ride along the river."

But there's something Marjory is looking forward to even more than her next cruise.

"Being able to hear again," she said. "I haven't been this excited for something in a long time."