Patient Story

Tommy’s story: State-of-the-art machine guides treatment

Tommy Hendricks’ son was concerned about the headaches and vision issues plaguing his dad in the summer of 2021.  

“My eyes were not focusing, and I was experiencing headaches,” Tommy said. “My youngest son convinced me to go to my local urgent care facility to be evaluated for a possible stroke.” 

The staff at the urgent care facility had Tommy sent straight to the Northside Hospital Gwinnett Emergency Department via ambulance for an MRI of the head and computerized tomography, or CT, scans. The tests didn’t reveal a stroke but did show one nodule in the right upper lobe of Tommy’s lung. 

A traditional bronchoscopy failed to identify a diagnosis, leading to further evaluation by Dr. Prasad Garimella at the Lung Nodule Clinic at Northside Hospital Gwinnett. Dr. Garimella recommended a more specific test, an interventional navigation bronchoscopy, to try to obtain a tissue specimen. This type of bronchoscopy provides a virtual 3D map of the lung for a more precise biopsy. 

The test revealed Tommy had stage 1 lung cancer. 

“I went on to have additional thoracic surgery at Gwinnett to remove my right upper lobe lung cancer,” Tommy said.

“Today, I am feeling better each day and thanks to Dr. Garimella and the many wonderful health care professionals at the Gwinnett Lung Nodule Clinic and Northside Hospital, I can continue to enjoy my family and life.” 

Northside’s Lung Nodule Clinics are staffed by a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons, radiologists, and medical and radiation oncologists, who collaborate to efficiently provide an individualized diagnosis and treatment plan for each patient. 

Among the tools there is the navigational bronchoscopy device, donated by the family of Clyde and Sandra Strickland family to help the Gwinnett Lung Nodule Clinic diagnose hard-to-reach lung nodules — among the nearly $7 million in donations the Stricklands have made to the Gwinnett Medical Center Foundation in recent years. 

Patients should be referred to one of Northside’s Lung Nodule Clinics after a suspicious nodule has been detected for expedited work up. Patients also may self-refer, and second opinions are welcome.  

* The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50% five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.


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