Domina's story

Her earache was not an infection, but a tumor behind the eardrum

Domina's journey to Vanderbilt started with an earache. The mother of three went to her doctor in Huntsville, Ala., thinking she had an ear infection. But tests revealed a tumor behind her eardrum called a glomus jugulare.

Domina and child outside home

99 percent better

At first it grew slowly, but over time her balance started to falter. The tumor began to press on her eardrum. The pain grew worse.

"After about four years of watching and waiting, I couldn't even come to work," she said.

She made an appointment at Vanderbilt and saw George Wanna, M.D., a neurologic surgeon at the Skull Base Center.

He told her that her condition was rare. This type of tumor grows in the temporal bone, which is on the side of the skull underneath the ear. This area is where the jugular vein and several important nerves exit the skull.

Glomus jugulare tumors can be watched or treated with radiation, but in Domina's case, the tumor was pressing on her eardrum and causing intense pain, so she needed surgery.

"I have no pain anymore, and I had no complications. I'm doing 99 percent better than before."

"It was a in a very sensitive area, and it was in an area where if they did anything wrong, I might die or not be able to be able to talk anymore," she said.

She had a 13-hour surgery performed by Dr. Wanna and James Nettervile, M.D. in October 2012 to remove the tumor. Four days later, she left the hospital.

"I'm doing great," she said. "I have no pain anymore, and I had no complications. I'm doing 99 percent better than before."

Domina has some hearing loss in her right ear, but she's been able to return to work at a pharmaceutical company and get back to enjoying her life with her husband and children.

She continues with follow-up care from a range of specialists, something the Skull Base Center is known for nationwide. A patient care coordinator helps patients like Domina throughout preparation, treatment and recovery, answering questions and arranging appointments.

"They are always calling to see how I'm doing," said Domina. "They've been very, very good to me. They went above and beyond what anyone could expect."

"I thank God for everything they did. I believe they saved my life."

Skull Base Center

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James L. Netterville

James L. NettervilleMD

    Cancer, ENT Ear, Nose, Throat (Otolaryngology), Head and Neck Cancer, Otolaryngology, Otolaryngology Surgery, Skull Base Conditions, Skull Base Surgery