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

news
William Jennings Bryan Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina (Facebook)

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."

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."

———

©2019 The State (Columbia, S.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 911th Airlift Wing is towed across the flightline at March Air Reserve Base, California, Jan. 7, 2020. (Air Force photo by Joshua J. Seybert)

March Air Reserve Base in California will host nearly 200 U.S. citizens who were flown out of Wuhan, China due to the rapidly-spreading coronavirus, a Defense Department spokeswoman announced on Wednesday.

"March Air Reserve Base and the Department of Defense (DoD) stand ready to provide housing support to Health and Human Services (HHS) as they work to handle the arrival of nearly 200 people, including Department of State employees, dependents and U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan, China," said Pentagon press secretary Alyssa Farah in a statement on Wednesday.

Wuhan is the epicenter of the coronavirus, which is a mild to severe respiratory illness that's associated with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus has so far killed 132 people and infected nearly 6,000 others in China, according to news reports.

Read More

The number of U.S. troops diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury following Iran's missile attack on Al- Asad Air Base in Iraq now stands at 50, the Defense Department announced on Tuesday.

Read More
A U.S. Marine with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, assigned to the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command (SPMAGTF-CR-CC) 19.2, carries a sand bag to strengthen a security post during the reinforcement of the Baghdad Embassy Compound in Iraq, Jan. 4, 2020. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Kyle C. Talbot)

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The United States hopes to discuss the entire strategic framework of its relationship with Iraq soon, a U.S. envoy said on Tuesday, as the fate of a U.S. military mission there remains in doubt after a drone strike that killed an Iranian general.

Read More
On Jan. 28, 2020, four Marines were awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for their actions in June 2018, when they rescued a family that had been caught in a dangerous rip current. (U.S. Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. William L. Holdaway)

In June, 2018, when a group of Marines noticed a family was being swept along by a powerful rip current at Atlantic Beach in North Carolina they immediately swam out to save them. Now, more than a year later, those Marines have been recognized for their actions.

Read More
An Army Combat Fitness Test instructor watches 229th Military Intelligence Battalion Soldiers attempt the new fitness test at the Presidio of Monterey, California. (U.S. Army/Marcus Fichtl)

Any excuses that soldiers have for not being able to prepare for the new Army Combat Fitness Test are growing slimmer and slimmer, as the service has released a revamped physical readiness training (PRT) mobile app.

Read More