'Absolutely horrible:' Photos show veterans left to wait in pain at Durham VA hospital
Posted February 27
Durham, N.C. — 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.
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.