Rachel, an audiology student, ensured her dad didn't ignore his ailment because she had learned about it in her classroom.
Rachel Ruhlin knew her dad had some issues with hearing. It was getting worse with each passing day. "We would say something to him and he would not hear it or he would repeat things and we'd be like, 'Well, we just said that,'" she told CBS News.
"I thought, maybe back in my 20s I was at a concert that was really loud or something like that and I messed up my one ear," Rachel's dad, Joe shared. But Ruhlin, who is studying Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences at Auburn University, was certain that there was more to it.
“Once I started taking these classes, it put it more into perspective,” Ruhlin said, per the university's website. “My professor would talk about how many people have hearing loss, and if you don’t get hearing aids, your hearing will just get worse and worse. Finally, I texted my dad and I said, ‘We have to go.’ I didn’t really give him an option.”
Though hard initially, Ruhlin convinced him to get set up an appointment to test if he needed hearing aids. “And I think she knew I would go with her, partly because it was going to be interesting for her to see up close what an audiology test looks like, what a hearing test would look like, and participate in it and ask questions,” Joe said.
Rachel Ruhlin came to @AuburnU to study Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences.— Auburn Liberal Arts (@AULiberalArts) June 16, 2022
What she didn't know is that it was a decision that would help save her father’s life.
Full Story: https://t.co/JuBaGxAD4S pic.twitter.com/0IVVPbgyF1
After finding he had a severe hearing loss on one side in the first audiology test, the next step was to consult an ENT specialist for a more comprehensive test, including an MRI. When the MRI results showed a large tumor, Ruhlin knew it was an acoustic neuroma—an extremely rare, but serious brain tumor—and one of the worst she had seen.
Acoustic neuromas affect only about three people in 100,000 but are risky because it is close to the brain stem. If left untreated, they can grow large enough to compress the brain stem, thus becoming life-threatening.
📺Tune in to @CBSEveningNews at 5:30 p.m. CT to see how #Auburn student Rachel Ruhlin used knowledge from one of her classes to help potentially save her father’s life.#WarEagle— Auburn University (@AuburnU) June 16, 2022
Barring breaking news, the segment will air tonight, perfectly timed with Father’s Day nearing. pic.twitter.com/zJhbLXuwc5
Ruhlin mentioned that she not only understood the details in the audiogram, but she also knew what the surgeons were talking about before the surgery because she had learned about this specific type of tumor in class. "So, if I hadn’t had these classes, I definitely would’ve been a lot more confused and in the dark,” she said.
Speaking about his vast experience in treating such tumors, Dr. Michael Link, the neurosurgeon who took care of Joe at the Mayo Clinic, said the longer it is left untreated, the more dangerous it can get.
“Even though it’s benign, having something growing inside your head is somewhat of a risk. And where this tumor arises, there’s a lot of important things, especially the brain stem, right next to it. So, as these tumors slowly enlarge, they can start to push on some critical structures,” Link said.
“The other issue is that right with the hearing and balance nerve runs the facial nerves, which innervates all the muscles of facial expression. As the tumor gets bigger, the risk that the facial nerve will be injured or won’t work well after surgery goes up.”
Eventually, the tumor was successfully removed on February 16, 2022, and Joe was in recovery for the next few months.
Joe said it is his daughter who helped him to get through this. “I’m very grateful that she pushed me to go see the doctor. It did take some encouragement, and she’s very good at encouraging me to do things. Daughters can be that way."
“So, I’m very grateful that she was in that audiology class at the time. She was talking to her audiology professors, and they were backing up what we were hearing, so it was very comforting to have her support.”
“Very few people, like Rachel, take it to that next level where they translate it to help their family. This is the first time in 25 years that I’ve experienced a student affecting their family’s future,” said Professor Sridhar Krishnamurti, one of Rachel's teachers at the University.
Cover Image Source: Instagram | Auburn University