Widow says husband waited 8 months for Durham VA appointment
Posted May 21, 2014
Durham, N.C. — People say 7-week-old Patrick Walston resembles his dad, so it’s understandable why mom Lisa Walston feels bittersweet when gazing at her newborn son.
“He told me on our first date that he wanted children,” she said of her husband, Brian Walston.
The Army veteran never got to meet his son. The 37-year-old died of colon cancer last year, four months before Patrick’s birth.
Walston said her husband, who served in Iraq, first showed symptoms of the disease in January 2011, when they were still dating. He went to the Durham VA Medical Center and was given a first-available appointment for a colonoscopy at the end of August, she said.
“You have to wonder if you are diagnosed at Stage 4, then what (stage) would it have been at eight months earlier,” Lisa Walston said.
As they waited for his appointment, the couple made several trips back to the VA as Walston's symptoms worsened.
“He went back to the ER five separate times,” Lisa Walston said.
When he was seen by a VA doctor in August 2011, she said, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer. Fed up and fearful, the family decided to take on the financial burden and switch hospitals.
Walston died two years later.
“It was very sad to see his faith in the VA system completely change from when it started to the end,” Lisa Walston said.
VA hospitals across the country, including the one in Durham, are under investigation for inappropriate scheduling practices. Reports have surfaced of vets dying while waiting for treatment.
When asked about the Walston case, Durham VA Health System Specialist Pete Tillman said, “If this is true, my heart goes out to his wife. We take this very seriously, and I'm going to look into this very carefully."
Walston said she wonders about other veterans who may not be getting the treatment they need at VA hospitals, and she said she hopes the federal government investigation will lead to improvements in the system.
“I do worry that as they uncover more, stuff may come out,” she said.