Emily Schadt is all too familiar with ear surgery. Although she is only six years old, she’s already experienced five surgical procedures. Prior to her most recent surgery at CornerStone Ear Nose & Throat, ear infections and eardrum perforations seemed to be a constant presence in her life. Her father, radio personality Paul Schadt, and mother, Kathy, both credit Richard Gillespie, Jr., M.D., of CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat with this dramatic improvement.

“We are so very grateful to Dr. Gillespie and the staff of CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat. He truly cares about Emily and is genuinely interested in her health and well-being,†said Kathy.

Emily was first referred to CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat at the age of three by Jodie Prosser,M.D. at Charlotte Pediatrics when a hole in her right eardrum would not resolve on its own. Eardrum (or tympanic membrane) perforations are typically the result of a traumatic event like an accident or sticking a pencil or cotton swab too far into the ear. In Emily’s case, she experienced otitis media with perforation. This type of ear infection is characterized by pain, loss of hearing and rupture of the eardrum resulting from a build-up of infected drainage and/or bloody discharge in the middle ear. These infections often resolve with antibiotic treatment, but in persistent cases like Emily’s, surgical intervention is necessary.

Emily Schadt is all too familiar with ear surgery.

According to Dr. Gillespie, Emily’s case had already progressed to chronic mastoiditis, which occurs when the infection from the ear spreads to the mastoid bone. This honeycomb-like bone is located behind the ear in the temporal bones of the skull. The mastoid bone deteriorates as it is filled with infection. As a result, Emily had little to no hearing in her right ear.

Emily underwent a tympanomastoidectomy to remove the infected area of the mastoid bone and repair the open eardrum. Upon surgical investigation, Dr. Gillespie found the ossicles bones in Emily’s ear were almost completely eroded.These are the bones that conduct sound and make hearing possible. He further discovered during surgery that her ear anatomy would not likely support a prosthetic or ossicular chain reconstruction. This meant Emily emerged from the surgery with a much healthier ear, but hearing in that ear could not be restored.

Emily continued to have ear infections and Dr. Gillespie treated them accordingly,monitoring her closely with MRI and CT studies of the brain and temporal bones. Still, the problems with her ear persisted, requiring more surgeries. Emily’s most recent procedure was to remove a small cholesteatoma, an accumulation and toughening of the skin that forms an abnormal growth in the middle ear. This disorder usually develops as a result of repeated ear infections and tympanic membrane perforations.

Six months after this procedure, Emily is now finally symptom-free. Her mom describes this as a milestone, explaining that in the past, Emily’s symptoms would recur within two weeks of the last infection.

Living With Partial Hearing Loss

Splish splash! Emily's persistent ear infections in her right ear and numerous surgeries haven't kept her from enjoying her love of water. She has a custom earplug to keep her ear dry.
Splish splash! Emily’s persistent ear infections in her right ear and numerous surgeries haven’t kept her from enjoying her love of water. She has a custom earplug to keep her ear dry.

Kathy wants to provide encouragement to other parents of children with monaural hearing loss. Emily’s speech is perfectly clear and she is thriving in first grade. She loves school and is reading at a sixth-grade level.

Dr. Gillespie is pleased with Emily’s progress and will continue to monitor her for as long as is necessary. “While cases like this can be extremely challenging, seeing the condition begin to finally resolve is its own reward,” says Dr. Gillespie.

Kathy says she always recommends CornerStone Ear, Nose & Throat. “I even carry business cards for the practice with me!” she says; “And when someone asks who Emily’s primary care doctor is, I tell them it’s Dr. Gillespie, because I always think of him first.”

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