VETERAN DIES AT VA HOSPITAL AND ALMOST ANOTHER, SHOULD SOMETHING BE DONE. OR JUST LET IT GO. FIRST PERSON WITNESS STORY. (FACT)
TO: ALL, whom it
may concern. I am writing to you as a concerned Vietnam era service connected
disabled veteran. I was hospitalized at my local VA Hospital June 04 through-
June 11, 2012, at the 123XYZ VA Hospital, XXXXXXXXX, Ca. My first ?serious?
concern is the care and safety of older Vet?s who don?t have the strength to
fight to protect themselves from the poor care they can sometimes receive at
the hands of those few VA medical staff who do not care and or are incompetent.
I am having flash
backs and real issues sleeping as of late because I feel I didn't do enough to
save another veteran?s life during my hospital stay at the Loma Linda VA
Hospital. I feel remorseful and guilty for not protecting this poor WWII
Veteran (I will call Mr Smith not his real name) that had been hospitalized for
His wife was
allowed to stay with him while in the hospital. His bunk was next to mine in a
4 person room. I was asked by this Vet's wife if I could help them, as she had
tried several times pushing the RED button to get staff help and had not
received any response from the nursing staff. She asked if I could do anything
to help her husband who was Uncontrollably shaking and shivering so bad that
his teeth were actually chattering.
It was especially
cool in the room, and he with his infection was freezing. So when asked by the
wife to help, I rang the front desk from my bed and requested a nurse to help
them.I was told they would be ?right there?. After 30 minutes and no one
showing up to help, I grabbed the blanket off my bed and covered them both up
to their necks, and went down the hall and found where the blankets were kept.
I took 2 more blankets from there and came back and put those, also, on them.
The wife thanked me for helping them with tears in her eyes, and the Vet in a
supper weak voice said thank you. To my shock no one ever did show up to check
on why Mr Smith was so cold or to help them.
Mrs Smith (not
her real name) the next day came to me and asked me about the NEW request by
the VA to have all Vets sign a Advanced Directive which states if you are
incapacitated, a do not resuscitate order be placed in your medical records.
She asked me what I thought of it. I told her
that I was warned by a fellow Vet from the LA office to not sign the Advanced
Directive order (AKA, a living will) allowing the VA ?and? the family to
determine if they should keep the patient alive.
information, the VA STAFF has trump authority to let the individual die before notifying family for their
opinion! The document really means that if a vet is old, and the VA doctor
feels the vet?s life is not worth saving, the Dr. will make the choice to let
the vet die right then and there. This bypasses State Law that demands that
every effort to keep one alive be implemented. Mrs. Smith told me that she had
signed for her husband during the admission process, just what the VA asked her
to authorize. I told her to
check with their estate attorney about what I was told.
around 7:30 pm, she came to me with panic in her eyes and crying, asking if I
could help her and her husband, as he could not breathe, and the hospital staff
was not answering her emergency button gain.I jumped up from my bed and came
around to his bunk and could see that he was in considerable distress. He was
thrashing his legs and arms, kicking and was trying with everything thing in
his being to suck in a gulp of air! His toes and fingers were already turning
blue and his wife was crying and he was fighting to breathe! I pushed the
emergency button again on his bed side and got no response. I turned towards
the open door way and hollered down the hall way, screaming that we needed a
nurse as this man can't breathe.
After a couple of
minutes a male Nigerian nurse showed up and I stepped back to let him help. To
my shock, all he did was poke him in the shoulder asking
him "are you alright"! All the while, Mr. Smith was trying to
breathe, still kicking his legs and clawing at his sheets. His feet were now
almost totally blue and his fingers were blue up to his knuckles and his lips
were a BRIGHT blue! Every breath that Mr. Smith could muster was so forced and
labored that he actually arched his back off the bed as he kicked and clawed at
his sheets: the panic and FEAR in his eyes haunt me still today!
ALL THE DAMN
NURSE DID WAS STAND THERE POKING HIM IN THE SHOULDER ASKING HIM IF HE WAS OK!
My God, how can he answer the nurse if he can't breathe enough to say a word? I
yelled at the nurse, can't you see he can?t breathe!? The nurse turned around
and pointed me out, although I was starting to walk back to my bunk. He then
went back to Mr. Smith, and this time he started to grab his shoulder and shake
him and again, merely asking him if he was ok!
I was sooooo
upset that I left the room and went outside to have a smoke and say a prayer
for him (Mr. Smith). It must have taken me 2 Minutes to go outside and 4
minutes to have a quick smoke and head back to my room another 2 minute walk.
So all in all, I was gone no more then 10-15 minutes. I came back into the room
expecting to see a crash cart, Oxygen being administered, and additional staff
trying to save Mr. Smith?s life.
WHAT I GOT WAS
NOT THAT AT ALL! What I actually saw was his wife running towards me crying.
There was no staff present! She threw her arms around me and said, sobbing,
that he was gone. I hugged her and told her that he was no longer in pain and
that God was taking care of him now. I told her that I could tell how VERY,
VERY much he loved her (as she never left his side and he always held her hand
even though they were both in their 80's) I didn't have the heart to ask
anymore questions. She asked me to call her daughter for her, as she couldn't
dial their number, so I called her daughter.
Just three hours
earlier I had taken a picture of them together cuddling together in his
hospital bed, and Mrs Smith asked me to send the picture to her daughter via my
cell phone. Which is how I had the number. When the daughter
answered the phone, I explained I was the Vet who had taken and sent her the
picture of her dad and mother together. She said ?yes?, and I said to her that
her mother asked me to call her and inform her that her Dad had passed away and
that her mother needed her help. The daughter said she
would be in as soon as possible (about 30 minutes).
Mrs Smith stayed
by my side while her husband laid dead in the bunk next to mine.(Mrs. Smith) was
crying and was talking about how wonderful a life they had together. I
just let her talk. Her Daughter showed up and she and her mom gathered up his
and her stuff from the room, and on the way out, Mrs. Smith again came to me
and gave me a hug and thanked me for helping her and her husband. The Daughter
came over and shook my hand and said ?thank you? for trying to help her parents
in their moment of need. and they left.
Sir, The VA LEFT
HIS DEAD BODY LAY NEXT TO ME FOR ALMOST 7 HOURS. WITH THE CURTAINS OPEN! I
couldn't lay back in my bed without seeing him laying there dead. I was shocked
and horrified on how cold and unprofessional, and incompetent this Male nurse
was, not to mention the lack of decency shown for the now deceased Mr. Smith!
From my point of view, they allowed this vet to die, and they exposed me to
possible secondary infection as a result of the body being unattended, not to
mention the mental anguish experienced at seeing this man next to me and
remembering his struggle to survive!
knew that if he couldn't breathe that it would only be minutes before he died
and it was allowed to happen! I was told by the next shift?s staff that they
had signed the Directive and he was not to be resuscitated. WELL HELL the man
was alive and grasping and fighting for life! He was NOT DEAD! I knew that
without Oxygen that he was going to die, but the male Nurse allowed him to die!
Allowed him to suffocate!
I WILL NEVER
FORGET the fear and terror in Mr Smiths eyes and the terror in his wife?s face
just before I was ordered out and left the room, my heart wrenching as I knew
that Mr Smith, if he didn't get oxygen, he was a goner! All the while, the male
Nigerian nurse was wasting time, sorta like trying to wait for him to suffocate
and die. The nurse rushed at nothing; did
nothing to prolong Mr. Smith?s life! HE just stood there asking him if he was
alright, even after I pointed out he was suffocating, at which point he order
me to leave the room.
Did I do right,
trying to notify the staff? Should I have given Mr. Smith CPR? Could I have
done more to save his Life -- another Veteran?s Life?? I'm Ashamed I didn't or
couldn’t do more. Am I as bad as the male nurse that stood there and let the
man die without lifting a finger to save this poor Vets LIFE ? Is this what we
can expect from our VA Hospitals in the future? In that short 15
minutes I was out of the room, I saw NO staff or any equipment coming to the
room on my way out, nor anything in the way of life-saving equipment or staff
coming out of the room upon my return. Just a
heart-broken wife, now widow! In addition, the very next night, they brought in
a veteran who was in severe pain from his was wounds received during Vietnam.
This man was
trying to be tough and tough it out with his pain. He was brought up from the
ER and admitted into the bed that the Mr. Smith had been in. This Vet was in so
much pain that he was whimpering and crying. The Staff, which also happen to be
the same staff that in my opinion allowed/caused the death of the Vet (Mr.
Smith) the night before. This new patient now laid there for 4 hours screaming
in pain and begging them to give him something for the pain. The staff ignored
him just like they had ignored Mr. Smith the night before! After 5 hrs, I
couldn't take it anymore. I again called the Staff and explained to them that
he was in serious pain and that my fears were that he might go into shock from
the pain. I informed the staff that the Vet was asking to die, and that he was
asking me to help him die.
responded with a tone that clearly indicated I was bothering them and
interrupting their work. The female nurse at the desk then told me that the
Doctor is aware of his condition and that I should stop bothering them! I tried
to talk with him to help take his mind off the pain, and bless his heart, he
tried, but after another 3 hours of him screaming in pain, he begged me to kill
him! He literally begged me to suffocate him as he couldn't stand the pain. He
said he wanted to die; he asked me to end his pain for him; he begged me. Have
you any idea what that does to a person when they see someone suffering like
that and NO ONE who can do something even bothers to listen???
I had been asked
by his brother to call him, if he got worse and didn't get any help. His
brother had given me his home number and asked me to promise to call him if he
was not being helped. I finally called the Vet?s brother after listening to him
beg for help, which was now a very long and grueling 4 more hours. I informed
him that his brother was being ignored, and informed him that his brother was
now asking to die because he couldn't stand the pain anymore. I told the
brother (phone # available) that I had called the staff and asked them to help
his brother, and the staff had told me to stop bothering them. He thanked me
and said he would call the staff directly, which he did, and he told me that
even the Vet?s Sister had called and complained about her brother not being
treated with true respect and professional care. (The staff didn't like that, I
Anyway, NO ONE
(not one of the staff) came to help this man either! His screaming was now
constant, and his voice was getting weaker. That told me that he might be in
trouble. I was already overwhelmed with guilt and mixed feelings from the prior
night’s experience, so much so that I didn't do enough to save Mr. Smith’s
life: So I tried to find a way to get this man some help. I called the VA
Hospital Police Dept. to report the torturing of a Vet for what was now 7
hours. I was told by the police that they had other emergencies of a higher
priority, and that I should call the nurse in charge. I asked them for her
number and they gave it to me, and I called her. She (Senior Staff
Nurse) acted like it was important and she came to the room in 15 minutes. They
removed the Veteran from my room and told me they were taking him to ICU.
During the Vet?s removal from my room, the Sr. Staff Nurse
came up to me, and asked me, what was wrong with me! Was I suffering PTSD? I
told her I could not stand to hear this man screaming and
begging me to help him die for 7 hrs. I told her that what had happened the
night before was terrifying for me, and I was afraid it was going to happen
again. I broke down and cried, and told her that I was so thankful that at
least now this man was going to be helped.
I asked to be
moved to another room as I could not stand to be in that room any longer
because of the death of the Vet the night before, and now the memories of the
Vet in serious pain. The staff nurse told me that I would have to wait until
morning before they could even ask for that to be done. I was so shook up and
traumatized that I went out and slept in my truck in the parking lot. I told
the staff that they could call me if they needed and I would come in.
The next morning
I was discharged because I was told (not by my doctor) but by the staff that I
was a problem due to interfering with their duties. So they discharged me! This
experience has left me with trust issues in the way I now see the VA health
care system. It appears to me to be a place to go die, instead of a place to heal.
There are many
good people there; experts and people who care. But they are all scared of the
retribution and loss of their jobs if they don’t follow protocol.
It appears to me that the protocol is flawed in many ways. My experience
reinforces that! I pray that this letter might help someone. There must be a
stop to the protocols that would allow another Veteran to die the way that poor
old man died. There is no dignity in suffocating to death! There was no true
empathy for the poor combat Veteran suffering for 7 long hours through his
unbearable pain. Those are not ways to treat Veterans that gave so much for
NOTE: The same
nursing crew that allowed the Vet to die and the poor vet to suffer in pain
were the SAME nursing staff. The rest of the nurses, morning and afternoon
shift, were great. They even put up with my chattering and
playing and joking with them, even if they may not have liked it. They were
kind, considerate, and tried so VERY hard to help me. I was scared (and still
am) as I still have not had the issue taken care of that hospitalized me in the
first place. (By the way, the mastoiditis was due to inappropriate treatment by
the ENT Staff that treated me at the 123XYZ VA. Hospital In XXXX XXXX
Also Note that I
have my set of medical records and there is a real heavily
sanitized version of my story in my medical records. I have a copy of all the
CAT scans of my skull and the dates taken. The medical records will allow me to
place names and times more conclusively if needed. SEE ATTACHED CONGRESSIONAL
AUTHORIZATION AND RELEASE FORM. Thank you for
your assistance in this matter. Respectfully,
XXXX XXXX XXXXX (VIETNAM VETERAN)
PS: Sir Your help is
urgently needed in this matter. Not for just my sake but for the sake of
hundreds of Vets from California, which brings me to my second concern.
[ MY Second
serious concern is being black listed! ]The questions I have pertaining to the
above letter are of serious importance to me. According to the events as
witnessed by me, I got into trouble while I was a patient in the hospital for
interfering with nurse duties. Even though Kenneth Johnson, who indicated he
was the patient advocate’s office chief, assured me that I had done the right
thing, and I in FACT did not interfere with hospital operations or nurses duties as
expressed in my medical records (conversation is transcribed) I need your help
in fixing this for me. Secret black listing of Veterans who complain: To this date I do
not know if the derogatory remarks in my private file have been expunged from
my records. I do know that the doctors keep a secret set of records that are
hidden from the veteran. These records are known to exist, and can be very
derogatory to the veteran and the quality of health care he receives. I wish to
see that file of information, and have it corrected
to reflect the truth, but I was told that it is private departmental and
doctor information only, and even though it puritans directly to the vet’s care
and health issues the vet is not allowed access to those records.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO PASS THIS LETTER ALONG ! I sent this letter to congressman Ken Calvert and got nothing BACK ! I sent this letter to the Chief of Patient Advocate at the Loma Linda and GOT A BIG FAT ZERO, I sent this letter to channel 10 NEWS in LA and got a big fat ZERO ! I sent this letter to the VA IG in Washington DC and got a BIG FAT ZERO.
NO ONE RESPONDED WITH EVEN A ACKNOWLEDGMENT!
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