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Old 09-24-2019, 10:44 AM
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Unhappy A South Carolina VA hospital turned away a sick Navy vet who tested hot for coke, the

A South Carolina VA hospital turned away a sick Navy vet who tested hot for coke, then settled when he claimed they mixed up his urine sample
By: John Monk The State & Task & Purpose - 9-24-19
RE: https://taskandpurpose.com/va-hospit...sample-lawsuit

A Navy veteran who sued Dorn Veterans Hospital for allegedly failing to diagnose and promptly treat him when he came to the hospital sick has gotten $150,000 in a settlement of his medical malpractice lawsuit.

"I didn't expect any money out of this," said Eric Walker, 49, of Camden, the Navy veteran. "It was mainly about what can we do to make the VA better. What can we do to keep this from happening again?"

In 2015, when Walker went to Dorn hoping to be treated for severe abdominal pains, medical workers at the hospital accidentally switched his urine sample with that of a cocaine addict, his lawsuit alleged.

Doctors then told him to leave the hospital and stop taking cocaine, Walker's lawsuit alleged.

"I said, 'I don't do cocaine,' and he said, 'I hear that all the time — but your urinalysis says otherwise,'" Walker told The State.

Walker said he has never taken cocaine, is not a drug addict and went to Dorn hoping to get relief from what he described as horrible pain.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Walker recalled in a recent interview, his pain was "probably a 12."

"I had been pretty much in a fetal position at my house for five or six days, couldn't move. I thought I had just bad stomach pains," Walker said. "It was bad enough to where I couldn't stand up straight."

To Walker's surprise, medical staffers told him after an hour that he had flunked the hospital's standard drug test.

“Dorn Emergency Room personnel informed (Walker) that his stomach pains were a direct result of ingesting multiple illegal drugs, in particular, excessive cocaine," according to a lawsuit that Walker has filed in U.S. District Court in Columbia.

Instead of treating Walker for his abdominal pains, the hospital told him to go home and try to free himself from being a cocaine addict.

“Dorn promptly discharged (Walker) and offered him pamphlets relating to one's treatment of substance abuse," the lawsuit says.

At home, Walker grew more ill. After several days, he was driven to Lexington Medical Center by a neighbor, said Walker's attorney, Todd Lyle of Columbia.

At Lexington Medical Center, Walker was “promptly diagnosed and rushed to emergency surgery for gall stones and disease of the gall bladder and pancreas," Lyle said.

Walker, 47, was in the Navy from 1989 to 1993, serving a six-month tour in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield in the first Iraq War. An enlisted man, he was part of the crew of a guided missile ship.

Lyle, a U.S. Army veteran who flew Apache helicopters in combat operations in Iraq in 2011 and continues to fly them in the Army National Guard, said he was moved by the story of Walker, a fellow veteran.

“The Dorn VA Hospital provides a valuable service to our veterans and our community is enhanced by this medical provider," Lyle said. “However, Eric's story is why we must be ever vigilant to protect our veterans."

Walker recovered. However, his lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for his Lexington Medical bills from his surgeries, as well as for his pain and suffering.

Dorn did not respond Friday to a query about the lawsuit.

The U.S. Attorney's office in Columbia, whose lawyers likely will represent Dorn and the Veterans Administration in the case, said it does not comment on pending litigation.

———

"I didn't expect any money out of this," said Eric Walker, 49, of Camden, the Navy veteran. "It was mainly about what can we do to make the VA better. What can we do to keep this from happening again?"

In 2015, when Walker went to Dorn hoping to be treated for severe abdominal pains, medical workers at the hospital accidentally switched his urine sample with that of a cocaine addict, his lawsuit alleged.

Doctors then told him to leave the hospital and stop taking cocaine, Walker's lawsuit alleged.

"I said, 'I don't do cocaine,' and he said, 'I hear that all the time — but your urinalysis says otherwise,'" Walker told The State.

Walker said he has never taken cocaine, is not a drug addict and went to Dorn hoping to get relief from what he described as horrible pain.

On a scale of 1 to 10, Walker recalled in a recent interview, his pain was "probably a 12."

"I had been pretty much in a fetal position at my house for five or six days, couldn't move. I thought I had just bad stomach pains," Walker said. "It was bad enough to where I couldn't stand up straight."

Sending Walker away from Dorn without more tests that should have been done to detect his real condition — gallstones and a diseased gallbladder and pancreas — constituted a failure to properly and promptly diagnose the veteran, Walker's lawsuit contended.

In a statement Monday, Veterans Affairs took issue with the lawsuit's urine sample allegation.

"There is no evidence this veteran's lab results were handled improperly. VA settled this case to avoid further litigation," a VA statement said.

"Thousands of S.C. veterans choose to be treated at the Columbia VA health care system because they know we provide exceptional health care that improves their health and well-being," the statement said.

After being sent home, Walker's pains grew and he finally had a friend take him to Lexington Medical Center. There, he was diagnosed promptly and scheduled for surgery for gallstones and gallbladder and pancreatic disease.

Walker's lawyer, Todd Lyle of Columbia, said Monday that had the case gone to trial, "the evidence concerning the urine sample was more than sufficient to convince a jury that Mr. Walker's urine sample had been improperly analyzed.

Also, Lyle said, Walker had numerous tests from his previous VA treatments in which he was never found positive for cocaine, and Lexington Medical Center several days later found no cocaine in his system.

Lyle is also a veteran. He flew Apache helicopters in combat in Iraq in 2011 and continues to serve in the S.C. Army National Guard.

"Eric Walker was never interested in filing a lawsuit, but the VA's failure to make this right gave him no choice," Lyle said. "Ultimately, the VA finally provided Mr. Walker with just compensation."

Walker was in the Navy from 1989 to 1993, serving a six-month tour in the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield in the first Iraq War. An enlisted man, he was part of the crew on a guided missile ship.

In settlement documents, Veterans Affairs admitted no fault and said it was settling the case to avoid "the expenses and risks of further litigation."

Walker, who grew up in Camden and graduated from Camden High School in 1988, said he filed the lawsuit because he believed the public attention from the lawsuit might help other veterans avoid the kind of suffering he had because of what he says was a medical error.

"When a veteran goes to the VA, we expect good care," Walker said. "We take care of this country. We expect to be taken care of when we get home."
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O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"IN GOD WE TRUST"
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