From Water In The Ear To Dural Arteriovenous Fistula Brain Surgery In 90 Days

From Water In The Ear To Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas Brain Surgery In 90 Days

As my husband recovers from successful five-hour brain surgery, I reflect on our family’s latest medical journey.

My husband’s rare brain dural arteriovenous fistulas (dAVFs) emphasizes how life can change in a moment, and why you need a second medical opinion.

Those who know our family well understand how our landscape is full of uncertainty.

Our family experience with my HypoGal journey is full of bizarre, rare diseases and go figure moments.

We feel blessed that we can write another chapter about our family’s obstacles that embraces a positive outcome.

The following is my recollection of my husband’s symptoms, what are dural arteriovenous fistulas and who is U.C.L.A.’s, Dr. Geoffrey Colby?

Timeline Of David’s Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas Symptoms

In approximately 90 days David goes from suspecting he has water in his right ear to brain surgery, surreal.

January 5, 2018: David awakes with fullness and ringing in his right ear.

David seeks a quick diagnosis at a local CVS Mini-Clinic. A Physician Assistant diagnoses him with water in the ear and prescribes ear drops.

January 15, 2018: The ear drops are not successful medical treatment. The right ear pressure-like feeling and ringing continues inside of David’s ear.

David has an appointment with a Mission Viejo Ear Nose and Throat doctor.

The ENT diagnoses David with adult sudden hearing loss of the right ear.

The doctor prescribes a weekly dose of steroids and suggests an MRI of the brain.

An MRI of the brain is used to rule out a benign tumor.

The ENT tells David that a benign brain tumor causes 1 percent of adult sudden hearing loss.

End of January 2018: I strongly suggest David receives a second medical opinion on his ear condition.

We have an appointment with a Board Certified Otolaryngology.

This Otolaryngology’s medical background is impressive, and she also has additional subspecialty training in Otology-Neurotology.

This doctor’s opinion resembles the first ENT recommendation. However, this physician suggests a series of steroid injections into David’s right ear.

Beginning of March 2018: David has several steroid injections in his right ear, but his hearing loss and tinnitus do not improve.

March 12th, 2018: David has an MRI of his brain.

March 13th, 2018: At approximately 8:30 P.M. David’s Internist phones him with the MRI results.

As I listen to the doctor try to explain David’s condition all I can comprehend is that a surgeon will most likely have to shoot glue into David’s brain and close the openings with metal coils.

This phone call feels like I am in a Seinfeld television episode.

The conversation goes, so they are going to fix his brain with glue and coils?

I remind myself that it is good news that David does not have a tumor or brain bleed.

I devour Google Scholar that evening trying to understand what is an arteriovenous brain malformation.

The more articles I read about arteriovenous malformation of the brain, the more concerned I become.

March 14, 2018: We are concerned about David’s MRI result and we consult with David’s ENT.

I ask the doctor question after question about David’s MRI report.

The physician’s conviction that David ear symptoms and the arteriovenous malformation on the MRI are entirely coincidental confuse me.

I tell the doctor that I do not believe in this coincidence.

I state that I strongly feel David’s adult sudden hearing loss and his arteriovenous brain malformation are connected.

The doctor tells me that I am mistaken and David’s hearing loss and arteriovenous malformation are not linked together.

I want to scream, “I read about dozens of cases of intracranial arteriovenous fistulas and tinnitus on Google Scholar!” I think, where is my doctor Google?

The ENT goes on to tell David and I that he should not be concerned about the MRI result.

Anxiously David asks the doctor if his head is a ticking time bomb?

The doctor replies that she would not be worried if she had this condition.

We explain to the doctor that medical mistakes have happened in our past and we would like a Neurosurgeon to review the MRI.

David then asks the doctor for a referral to a Neurosurgeon.

The ENT happily offers us the name of a Neurosurgeon affiliated with Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

David asks the ENT if she can help expedite this appointment with the Neurosurgeon.

The physician smiles and then adds that she will try to help us expedite an appointment with the Neurosurgeon.

Side note: This doctor’s attitude towards David’s MRI report causes us to postpone an appointment with U.C.L.A. Neurosurgeon, Geoffrey Colby scheduled on Monday, March 19.

March 26, 2018: The appointment with the Hoag Hospital Neurosurgeon last all of five minutes. My husband and I are in shock.

The Neurosurgeon informs us that David’s medical condition requires brain surgery.

The surgeon then goes on to say that he does not perform the type of surgery David needs.

The Neurosurgeon advises us to seek the medical services of an Interventional Radiologist.

He also explains to us that if an interventional Radiologist is not able to resolve David’s brain condition than we may be seeing him again.

The surgeon then reassures us that Intervention Radiologists have extended medical education and he offers us a referral.

March 28, 2018: The Hoag Hospital’s Interventional Radiologist is exceptionally generous with his time, and knowledge.

After listening to the interventional radiologist explain the complexity of David’s dural arteriovenous fistulas, how he believes only five surgeons in the United States could successfully perform David’s surgery, I do not feel comfortable with the game plan.

Understandably, David wants immediate medical care, but we agree to seek another medical consultation.

April 2, 2018: Consultation with the Director of U.C.L.A. Neurosurgery, Dr. Geoffrey Colby.

I should add that Neurosurgeon Geoffrey Colby has a Ph.D. and is a member of FAANS.

FAANS is the abbreviation for Fellow of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Dr. Colby medical explanation of David’s suspected dural arteriovenous fistulas is easy to understand. The doctor patiently explains David’s MRI results to us.

The surgeon then tells us that he will not know exactly what he is dealing with until he performs a cerebral anagram.

Dr. Geoffrey Colby’s approach, demeanor calms my anxiousness.

April 3, 2018: Neurosurgeon Geoffrey Colby performs David’s cerebral anagram without any complications.

Dr. Colby is certain that David has dural arteriovenous fistulas (dAVFs).

April 4, 2018: The emotional stress surrounding my husband’s pending brain surgery causes my body to collapse the day before his surgery.

It was love, friendship and several stress doses of steroids that enable me to move forward.

David handles my breakdown with ease.

I wonder if he realizes he is having brain surgery tomorrow?

April 5, 2018: Two hours before surgery, Doctor Colby provides us with an overview of the surgery and then we sign waiver after waiver. 

After Doctor Colby gives us an overview of the dural arteriovenous fistulas procedure he kindly answers all our questions.

The surgeon conveys he will not know his precise plan of action until he begins the procedure.

He goes over the risk this brain surgery, but David and I are well aware of the danger of not having brain surgery.

Without surgery, my husband would most likely have a brain bleed or stroke.

We learn from Dr. Colby that David is fortunate to have experienced hearing loss.

The hearing loss was a warning signal that the arteriovenous fistulas were limiting oxygen supply and causing pressure on veins.

Brain surgery seems like a fabulous option.

David’s five-hour-plus brain surgery is successful.

The talented Neurosurgeon Dr. Colby and his amazing medical team can close dural arteriovenous fistulas on the right side of his brain.

We will be forever grateful for U.C.L.A.’s Director of Neurology, Doctor Geoffrey Colby and its medical team.

What Are Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas?

Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas are abnormal connections between a vein covering the brain or spinal cord and the artery.

David had hundreds of vessels that needed closure.

Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas (dAVFs) can carry high-pressure arterial blood into the venous sinuses or veins that normally carry low-pressure. 

This causes deoxygenated blood returning to the heart from the brain. 

The decrease in oxygen and increase in pressure can cause neurological symptoms and bleeding of the brain. 

The brain hemorrhages. 

The following are several medical links that may help you to understand better, what are dural arteriovenous fistulas;


Neurosurgeon Geoffrey Colby

Our family is in awe of Dr. Geoffrey Colby’s talented surgical skills.

Words will never be able to express our gratitude to Dr. Colby. 

I would like to acknowledge that Neurosurgeon Geoffrey Colby saved my husband, my girls’ father and friend to many, thank you! 

Neurosurgeon, Geoffrey Colby performs both cranial and intravenous brain surgery.

The following is a YouTube video where Neurosurgeon, Geoffrey Colby explains his expertize:


You can read about Dr. Geoffrey Colby’s medical background on this link.


Update: It has been over a week since David’s surgery and it is incredible to watch how well he is recovering.

It is almost inconceivable to think David had brain surgery last week.

I would like to give a gigantic hug for everyone’s love, kindness, and support.

David’s brain surgery is just another chapter in our story.

Much love to all.