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2018 Annual Report

Collaboration and Precision Quality Care Spare Bride Her Signature Smile

UH patient Aly Bobulsky and her husband, Greg Cortese, celebrate her recovery and their magical day
UH patient Aly Bobulsky and her husband, Greg Cortese, celebrate her recovery and their magical day.

Behold the radiant smile of brain tumor survivor Aly Bobulsky on her wedding day. Then, consider that only the skilled hands of experienced surgeons ensured it was even possible for this beautiful bride to convey her joy on this momentous occasion.

The stars aligned for Aly when otolaryngologist- neurotologist Cliff Megerian, MD, and neurosurgeon Nicholas Bambakidis, MD, carefully removed the nearly four-centimeter tumor pressing on the nerve that controls facial expression.

“With a tumor that size, it’s very, very difficult to save normal function of the facial nerve,” said Dr. Megerian, President, UH Physician Network and UH System Institutes, Richard W. and Patricia R. Pogue Chair in Auditory Surgery and Hearing Sciences. “It was a silently growing tumor. If it gets too large, removal can be life-threatening.”

UH draws patients from across the region and the country – from places as far away as Phoenix and North Carolina – for cases that demand exacting precision.

“The nerve to the face is intimately involved with the tumor itself,” said Dr. Bambakidis, Director, UH Neurological Institute. “If it’s injured, the cosmetic damage can be disfiguring.”

Aly’s atypical symptoms began slowly, with intermittent dizziness and blinding headaches. Imaging revealed a large tumor pressing on the auditory nerve in her ear canal and reaching the brain stem, a sensitive location where it risks interfering with the flow of cerebral spinal fluid and can be fatal.

In a six-hour procedure through an incision behind Aly’s ear, Drs. Megerian and Bambakidis collaborated to carefully remove the tumor and spare her smile for a wedding four months later. Her expert care team included physical therapists, who guided her through rigorous sessions to restore her balance in time for the wedding.

“My smile is something that is so ‘me’ and the risk of having that taken away from me was scary,” said Aly. “I’m really grateful that my surgeons have such gifted hands.”