Veteran Raynard Parks had to have his thumb amputated at a private hospital after being given anti-inflammatory pills by a Memphis VA doctor in response to a bacterial infection.
Parks’ journey through the VA medical system began during December, when he started experiencing problems with his hand while working as a dish washer at a restaurant in Midtown, Memphis.
The pain was localized in his thumb, and at first he thought the sensation might be because he smashed his thumb, but quickly realized he hadn’t in recent memory. Over the next few days, the pain increased until it was absolutely excruciating. His thumb on his right hand had swelled to twice the size of his other thumb. Still, he tried to continue working at his job and switched hands while dish washing, but decided to head into the Memphis VA when he realized the pain was only worsening.
Parks’ first visit to the VA was on December 21, but the wait time was so long he left without treatment and came back the next day. Staff took X-rays, which showed that there was nothing broken in his hand. After about 5 hours of waiting, a doctor diagnosed several different types of dangerous bacteria present on the hand: Enterobacter, Klebsiella Oxytoca, and Streptococcal Intermedius. The doctor promptly gave Parks five anti-inflammatory pills and a single antibiotic.
Parks went home and took the pills, but told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a recent interview that they didn’t do much to stop the pain. After several days passed with no sleep, Parks decided it was time for a second opinion and went to the emergency room at Methodist University hospital.
“Staff at Methodist University didn’t verbalize criticism of the VA, but the implication was that they were shocked about it,” Parks told TheDCNF. “They weren’t satisfied with the VA medical protocol. They were shocked the VA let a patient out with that type of bacterial infection.”
After lots of tests, the doctor diagnosed a bacterial infection and employees went into action trying to save Parks’ thumb with courses of antibiotics.
Parks’ thumb had to be partially amputated in early January.
“They tried everything they could,” Parks told TheDCNF. “I couldn’t be mad at the fact that my thumb had to be amputated because they tried their best, but I am mad about the failed follow-up at the VA.”
“The VA is a fine institution, but if they had a better follow-up system that if you see something like this – they almost saved my thumb at the new system,” Parks added.
Parks believes that if he had stuck with the VA, the infection could have spread to his entire hand.
“You need some outside people to shake this up because if you don’t, it’s going to be business as usual,” Parks said. “The VA right now is business as usual. This is what we’ve been doing for 40 years, and we’re not doing anything new—until people shake this up, it’s still going to continue.”
It’s unclear if more aggressive treatment from the VA would have saved Parks’ thumb.
The Memphis VA is one of the more troubled veterans’ affairs hospitals across the country. Even the VA has acknowledged that the facility is a one-star facility, out of a possible mark of five stars, with five being the best rating. In late December, the Memphis VA stated it was launching an investigation into long wait times at the emergency room.
VA spokeswoman Willie Logan told TheDCNF that privacy laws don’t allow the VA to discuss patient-specific matters.
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