Local News

'Absolutely horrible:' Photos show veterans left to wait in pain at Durham VA hospital

Posted February 27

— The story of two veterans left to wait in pain as they sought medical attention at the Durham VA Medical Center came to light over the weekend, after photos of the men were shared on social media.

Steve McMenamin went to the Durham VA on Friday to get help for his back pain, but he said what he saw around him also hurt.

McMenamin and his wife, Hanna, said the photos show two veterans struggling in their own pain for at least three hours while waiting to be seen by a doctor.

The first photo shows a man in a wheelchair who appears to be in severe pain. The second photo shows another man who seemed to be suffering from “pneumonia-like” symptoms, they said.

“Very shaky, trembling and he was asking for help. He was getting pretty desperate,” Steve McMenamin said.

In a Facebook post, Hanna McMenamin said the man asked multiple times for a place to lie down and was ignored. Unable to catch his breath, the couple said the man stretched out on the ground until employees at the Durham VA Medical Center made him get back up.

“That’s somebody’s dad, that’s somebody’s grandfather,” Hanna McMenamin said.

Jesse Lee, a Vietnam veteran, was the man in the wheelchair. He said he went to the VA for severe phantom pains after a leg amputation.

“Somebody in real bad pain should be seen,” Lee said. “It felt like a railroad spike was going through my foot. It’s like one of the worst pains you’ve ever felt in your life.”

Lee said he was in pain for several hours before he was seen. McMenamin said the problem was with one particular VA nurse who appeared to essentially ignore the pleas from patients.

“Seeing that was absolutely horrible and then to see so little attention being paid to it,” Hanna McMenamin said.

‘Absolutely horrible:’ Photos show veterans left to wait in pain at Durham VA hospital

Eventually, other workers stepped in and the two men were treated, but Hanna McMenamin took the photos and posted their stories online, where it has been shared tens of thousands of times.

The VA has also taken notice.

“Our mission is to provide the highest level of health care to veterans, so upon learning of the incident, I took swift action. The employee was immediately removed from patient care pending the results of an internal review,” the Director of the Durham VA Medical Center said in a statement to WRAL News.

The McMenamins said the VA has reached out to them and said they are conducting interviews to get to the bottom of what happened.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Glen Newsome Mar 3, 2017
    user avatar

    Absolutely disgraceful, period.

  • Edward Anderson Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Thank you, Mr. Jones for a breath of fresh air. "His fault", "your fault", anything but "my fault". How does anybody expect to develop solutions when all "they" are focusing on is placing the blame?

  • Clarence Drumgoole Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar


  • John Townsend Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    VA spending in 2008 was roughly 90Billion. VA Spending in 2016 was around 160Billion. How does that amount to a huge cut?

  • Linda Tally Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    Looks like the VA hasn't improved at all - and why are people acting surprised? This is actually normal procedure at any VA facility. I've seen it for 20 years with no noticeable change.

  • K Hope Capps Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    This has been reported on WRAL in the past. I've read it, going back at least 8 years. Remember the story of the man with stomach cancer that repeatedly tried to get seen at the VA, was put off and MONTHS later when he finally gave up and went to a civilian doctor, he found out he was terminal? WRAL HAS reported on this issue in the past and it was when President Obama was in office.

  • K Hope Capps Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Do you mean CORPORATE WELFARE? Or perhaps all of those government contractors hired to do jobs that we already pay our US Military to do? Because THAT is the budget drain, NOT welfare and NOT care of our veterans. You see, caring for veterans AND for the elderly and children are NOT mutually exclusive.

  • K Hope Capps Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread


  • David Jones Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    I'm a loyal democrat. I'll make hay out of just about anything....but the problems with veterans care go back to the Civil War. The origins of the phrase "red tape" come from this issue.

    Like gerrymandering and corruption, this is a societal problem that has no political affiliation.

  • George Orwell Feb 28, 2017
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    "Money was not the issue during Ob*mmer's time. It was his inability to lead and disdain for the military. He would rather reward illegals."

    Interesting. Please elaborate further. Thanks in advance.