Local News

Widow says husband waited 8 months for Durham VA appointment

Posted May 21, 2014

— 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.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • razor2 May 22, 2014

    I would just like to thank WRAL for helping me to realize that one of the foundations that should protect free speech your paper encourages silencing the comments and views of others when they concern anything to do with the current legislators and also the views of a vet commenting on issues that he has experienced while dealing with the Durham VA... While WRAL has been my go to place for the news I regret to say I will be looking for a new and more unbiased station in the future ty .
    Best Wishes to all of you I am very disappointed by the actions of your moderator.

  • Michael Sullivan May 22, 2014
    user avatar

    I'm not going to excuse the VA.. I will say this; to everyone, politician and civilian alike who beat the drum to fight the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; you, yes YOU deserve part of the blame because NONE of you gave a though to the cost that taking care of our service people would exact in terms of not only money but time. And so, NO plans for care were made and look at the mess we have now.

  • David McIntee May 22, 2014
    user avatar

    I guess WRAL has yet to pick up on the news that Sen. Richard Burr has called for a Select Committee to investigate the growing VA scandal.

    Kay Hagen ---- CRICKETS!

  • Maurice Pentico Jr. May 22, 2014
    user avatar

    The VA has been the liberal left's poster child for socialized medical care here in the US. As a disabled vet.... I have dealt with the VA in three different States over a 30 year period. They are usually poorly managed, frequently misplace valuable documentation, and the staff could not care less. The Durham VA has been a dim glimmer of light in an otherwise dark room of poor medical care. Thankfully I can get my treatment through my family doctor. But at $125 Billion taxpayer dollars per year.... ALL vets deserve better.

  • JAT May 22, 2014

    This has probably been asked already but why didn't she just go to another doctor or hospital? If I thought my spouse had signs of cancer, and someone told me it would be 8 months before they saw me, I'd go to someone else. Get a referral and you get in somewhere quickly. I know the VA benefits are great, but are they greater than your life? Heck no.

  • Jackson Smith May 22, 2014
    user avatar

    I worked with the VA system and this has gone on for 30 years that I know of. Nothing new so go back and blame everyone who was responsible. Not just those in authority now. Last good thing I remember is the new VA in Augusta GA when Carter was President. Is that far enough back for you.

  • Lee Co Rat May 22, 2014

    Iwasasoldier4u May 22, 12:50 p.m.

    Nobody did not say that you did not earn your benefits. The point is don't hold
    a underfunded VA responsible for an eight month wait. And by the way you earn
    a salary, insurance is an entitlement that is given. You are using your veteran status
    as an excuse. No one is saying that veterans don't deserve better care, blame the
    right people.

  • itsnotmeiswear May 22, 2014

    Lost a good friend a few years back after he was labeled a "drug seeker" by the VA for complaining of abdominal pains. He died a year later from liver cancer. When I visited him at the Durham VA, I became was shocked at the amount of chaos that I witnessed. Service men and their families deserved better, and we could do a lot better if we just cancelled a few politically favored but unnecessary weapon systems. This isn't about money as much as it is about choices for the money already being collected.

  • UNC006 May 22, 2014

    This is the rationing that happens when you get an inefficient government bureaucracy trying to run health care. The VA problems are nothing more than a snapshot of health care without competition- a la single payer. Give our Vets a voucher to get health care in the free market and get the bureaucrats out...

  • Olenc Native May 22, 2014
    user avatar

    The problem to me seems to be an issue of funding. The VA was not fully funded and could not provide services.

    If a government agency is not fully funded, which party's fault might that be?