Veteran With PTSD and LBD Denied Admittance 32 Times
February 16, 2016
Patient Name & Veteran: Ronald Lee Davis
To whom it may concern,
We recently had a horrifying experience trying to obtain medical care for my husband, Ronald Lee Davis, a Vietnam Veteran (U.S. Marine Corps). No one should have to undergo the degradation and suffering this patriot experienced while in his own country. The purpose of this letter is to encourage reform of our health care system so that all people have access to care, so that each hospital facility, whether public, private or governmental, has the necessary set-up to care for not only the physically ill, but mentally disturbed as well, especially those with dementia.
Ron had a 100% VA service-connected disability rating. He had been receiving treatment for Lewy Body Dementia, an Atypical Parkinsons disease, as well as PTSD at the Durham, NC Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center since fall of 2010. The medical care there was fantastic. Unfortunately, the LBD, a progressive disease, had recently gotten much worse.
While on vacation in Virginia, his attention span grew even shorter. He was more disoriented and subject to psychotic outbursts. He assaulted our grandson and a friend. We were able to talk him down, but had to keep him under constant surveillance. A few days later, on Saturday, 08/15/2015 my husband had a psychotic episode in which he tried to attack our grandchildren. He was so combative that he had to be physically restrained by our son. He became a danger not only to himself, but other people, as well. We had no choice but to bring him to the nearest hospital emergency room (Riverside in Tappahannock, Virginia), where he later punched a nurse. With the help of the hospital and social workers, over 32 facilities in Virginia and North Carolina, including 4 VA hospitals, the Durham, NC VA Medical Ctr., the Richmond, Virginia VA Med. Ctr., the Hampton, Virginia VA Med Ctr. and the Salem, Virginia VA Med Ctr., were contacted. No facility would take him. He was never admitted to a room in Riverside, but remained in the emergency room for 1 1/2 nights. For his and others’ safety we had no choice but to have him temporarily committed to Eastern State Hospital, in Williamsburg, Virginia. He arrived there by ambulance after midnight on Monday, 08/17/2015.
Once at Eastern State, he attacked a staff member and threw chairs across the floor. His physical health declined even further. When he first arrived there, I noticed a very strange walk in addition to his parkinsonian characteristic shuffling, as though tripping over his feet. He had extreme difficulty speaking. After a day or so, my continuous visits were for naught, as each time I would be told he was sleeping. My concerns were voiced and met with reasonable replies. However, on Sunday, 08/22/2015, he was transported from Eastern State to Sentara Hospital Emergency Room, Williamsburg, VA, where he was diagnosed with severe dehydration, pneumonia, acute renal failure, and a rash, etc. He was unable to swallow, couldn’t talk and was in a comatose-like state from which he never woke. Sentara admitted him (was still under auspices of Eastern State) and provided outstanding care, while we continued trying to get him back to North Carolina.
Eventually, after much ado, and when Ron was at death’s door, the Durham VA Med. Ctr. was finally able to accept him. There was still another obstacle to face, however. Because he had been committed to the state mental institution, he wasn’t allowed to cross state lines to get back into North Carolina. With the help and support of many professionals who were helping us on this case, Eastern State was granted legal authorization to release him. They did so on the afternoon of 08/26/2015. He was transferred by ambulance in the wee hours of the morning on Thurs., 08/27/2015, where he ended up in the VA hospice unit. He died there of advanced Lewy Body Dementia on 09/09/2015.
Doctors, nurses, social workers and many others from both states tried to help us find timely care, but everything seemed to be locked up in an administrative bind that no one could penetrate. He did not belong in Eastern State, which acted as a safety net for disturbed patients who couldn’t find care elsewhere. He needed to be placed in a mental ward of a medical hospital (seems to be a thing of the past). There, his psychotic episodes could have been addressed while providing the medical help he needed. Unfortunately, should there even have been a psych ward in any of the hospitals contacted, there were not enough beds to meet the demand.
This situation should never have occurred. We need to step up to the plate and make sure it never happens again. Restructuring our medical institutions to include the mentally ill, as well as dementia patients is a challenge we must face.
Patricia S. Davis
Patricia S. Davis
Feb 16, 2016