A woman appeared on the show called “Beachfront Bargain Hunt” on HGTV little knowing that one of the viewers of the show will help her get diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.
Dr. Erich Voigt, an ear, nose and throat surgeon from the New York University Langone Health, happened to be watching the particular show when Nicole McGuinness, 32, of Havelock, North Carolina, appeared on it and he instantly knew something was not right.
Having a keen eye for diagnosing skin ailments, the doctor immediately recognized a lump on McGuinness’ throat as something that could potentially be cancerous.
“I noticed that she had a lump in her neck,” Voigt told ABC News. “And as a head and neck surgeon, I’m trained to sort of notice these things.”
Voigt said the specific asymmetrical appearance of the lump and “way of moving under the skin” when she spoke alerted him to the grave nature of her condition.
“I thought, I don’t think she knows she has this. I felt obliged and sort of guilty, like I should let her know,” he told the New York Post. “I paused my TV and rewound it. I had to make a choice whether to ignore it or actively try to contact her.”[embedded content]
Not knowing whether she was aware of her condition, Voigt decided to get in touch with McGuinness and warn her about it. There was just one major problem. The show never mentioned her last name or where she lived. Finding no other way to identify her, the doctor took to social media, posting a mobile-recorded video clip of the show along with the following message, asking if people could recognize her.
“I am watching a TV show and notice this woman has a left thyroid mass. She needs a sonogram and fine-needle biopsy. I wonder if she knows and hope it’s benign. #beachfrontbargainhunt,” he posted on Facebook on May 5.
Social media users got to work and after two weeks, Voigt finally got in touch with McGuinness and told her that she needed to get a sonogram and biopsy done. McGuiness, who was a cancer survivor, went in for a checkup on Voigt’s advice to a local doctor and found out that she had thyroid cancer.
“She was unaware that she had a mass,” Voigt wrote in another post on June 3. “Her doctors had never noticed it. She went for the sonogram and biopsy I recommended. She just let me know the biopsy revealed thyroid cancer. She will be seeing a surgeon and getting appropriate treatment and I hope she will be cured! Awesome power of Facebook and good people!”
McGuinness could not stop thanking her lucky stars. “It’s just a miracle in my opinion that he happened to see this on TV,” McGuinness told ABC News. “I can’t express how grateful I am.”
After the life-saving phone call, McGuinness came face-to-face with Voigt on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. Voigt was optimistic that McGuinness will be able to beat cancer once again, especially since it was diagnosed in the earliest stage, adding that he could not take all the credit for saving McGuinness’ life.
“Social media can generate fake news and negative feelings — but this time it was used in a good and positive way,” he said. “It helped someone. It connected people.”
Voigt said helping McGuinness was a humbling experience for him. “Helping her was heartwarming and emotional,” Voigt said. “I’ve held back some tears.”