Meniere’s Disease Sufferer Credits Wheeling Hospital for Restoring ‘Balance’ to His Life

Photo Provided Robert Tomer, left, and his physical therapist, Dr. Tom McFadden of Wheeling Hospital’s Center for Dizziness and Balance, walk together during a therapy session. Tomer, who suffers from Meniere’s Disease, credits the physical therapy provided by McFadden with getting him back on his feet and walking again.

WHEELING — While Robert Tomer’s battle with Meniere’s Disease is still being fought, the relief he was been able to attain through physical therapy at Wheeling Hospital has been life-changing.

Meniere’s Disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can lead to dizzy spells, or vertigo, and hearing loss. In most cases, including Tomer’s, the disease affects just one ear. Other symptoms include ringing in the ear, or tinnitus.

While Meniere’s Disease is considered a chronic condition, various treatments can help relieve symptoms and minimize the long-term impact on everyday life. That’s where Dr. Tom McFadden of Wheeling Hospital’s Center for Dizziness and Balance stepped in.

“I couldn’t even stand up before I started seeing Tom,” Tomer said. “I still have some issues, but the help Tom has given me is unbelievable. The therapy has really helped my balance.”

Tomer, 55, who lives in Piedmont, first began experiencing symptoms of Meniere’s Disease about six years ago while he was still working at a mill in Cambridge.

“I’d get real dizzy spells and sick to my stomach,” he said. “I’d be at work and have to go home. Sometimes my wife, Lori, would have to come get me. I had a couple of attacks, then they started getting closer together.”

After he was diagnosed with Meniere’s, Tomer underwent two surgeries in Pittsburgh: first an endolymphatic sac decompression to alleviate excess fluid levels, and later an operation to cut the vestibular nerve, which connects balance and movement sensors in the inner ear to the brain.

“Before the operations, I was having real severe attacks,” Tomer said. “The doctor said it was one of the worst cases of the disease he’d ever seen. The room would just spin and I’d be sick for eight or more hours. Those real bad attacks have stopped, but I’m still having issues with dizziness and some nausea.”

Tomer, who now has just 20 percent of his hearing in the affected ear, traveled to Columbus after his surgeries to see a doctor at Ohio State about the continuing issues. It was that physician who recommended physical therapy.

“He told me physical therapy would teach me how to fall in order to minimize any injuries,” Tomer said. “That was rather depressing.”

But McFadden instead insisted: “I wanted to teach him how not to fall.”

McFadden said Tomer’s surgical treatment left him significantly impaired and unable to work.

“Mr. Tomer had a major inner ear problem and he had significant difficulty walking and balancing prior to the onset of his treatment here. But he has shown significant improvement with vestibular therapy,” McFadden said. “He has been ideal patient to work with since he is so highly motivated to improve and regain maximum function, and he also has a very supportive wife. He’s a perfect example to others that they can overcome and recover from serious impairments.”

While Tomer hasn’t worked since March, he’s now hoping to return to the mill. And he credits the therapy provided by McFadden for that hope.

Tomer said, “This has been an uphill battle, but thank God my doctor recommended the therapy that Tom provides. I couldn’t ask for anything better than what he’s done for me.”


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