By Alexandra Becker
Victoria, TX resident Timothy Prickett first arrived at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in 2018 after experiencing extreme shortness of breath. Because of the severity of his condition, he was hospitalized and placed under the care of Dr. Soma Jyothula, MD, associate professor of pulmonary medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and medical director of the Lung Transplant Center at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
After evaluation, Jyothula and his team confirmed that Prickett was suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a chronic and progressive lung disease that causes the lung tissue to scar and harden, preventing the lungs from effectively transporting oxygen into the bloodstream.
“This disease is progressive, meaning that without treatment, it will continue to worsen to the point that patients will no longer be able to breathe on their own,” said Jyothula, who is also the associate director of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Clinical Care Center at UTHealth Houston. “We started Mr. Prickett on appropriate treatment for his condition and continued to monitor him over the course of the next few years.”
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is the most common type of pulmonary fibrosis, with approximately 50,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the American Lung Association. Patients typically begin to see symptoms between the ages of 50 and 70, and while it is most common among men, women can be affected as well. There are more than 200 different types of pulmonary fibrosis, and although the causes are often unknown, researchers have identified that autoimmune diseases, some viral infections, and exposure to hazardous materials can put a person at higher risk for developing pulmonary fibrosis.
The treatment protocol Jyothula prescribed for Prickett worked well and helped alleviate many of his symptoms, but because there is no cure for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Prickett’s disease continued to progress. Recently, he was readmitted to Memorial Hermann-TMC.
“We evaluated Mr. Prickett for acute exacerbation, which is a sudden worsening of the disease,” Jyothula explained. “He is now in the process of evaluation for a lung transplant, and we are working to determine his candidacy for transplant once clinical work-up is completed and presented to the medical review board for approval.”
Because Prickett’s disease will continue to advance, he will likely need a lung transplant at some point in the future. For now, he is thankful for his care at Memorial Hermann-TMC and for Jyothula’s expertise and guidance.
“I was in the hospital for a little over a week this last time, and I have never been treated so well in all of my life,” Prickett said. “They make everyone feel welcome and have involved all of my family in the entire process. Their program speaks for itself, and I am confident that I am under the best care there is.”
Jyothula added that Memorial Hermann not only works to provide the highest quality of care for every patient, but to do so for every stage of the disease.
“We have treated Mr. Prickett through the various stages of his idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis—from diagnosis to disease management and through offering the complete therapeutic options available, including lung transplantation,” Jyothula said. “We are proud to be able to offer this kind of comprehensive care and hope to spread awareness about pulmonary fibrosis and the current treatment options available.”