Sergeant's death in Iraq blamed on blood clots

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Sgt. John Franklin Burner III, whom the Army was treating for a respiratory infection when he died under uncertain circumstances Sept. 16 in Iraq, apparently succumbed to a blood clot, his widow said Friday.

Sgt. John Franklin Burner III, 32, died Sept. 16 of an illness in Iskandariya, Iraq. He was deployed with the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which is part of the 35th Signal Brigade  File
Sgt. John Franklin Burner III, 32, died Sept. 16 of an illness in Iskandariya, Iraq. He was deployed with the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which is part of the 35th Signal Brigade

An armed forces medical examiner told her there were "no doubts" that blood clots that formed in her husband's leg had moved to his lungs and caused his death, said Verena Burner, who lives in Grovetown with the couple's two daughters.

She and the sergeant's parents in Maryland have raised questions about why medical treatment might have been delayed for Burner as his unit moved into Iskandariya, Iraq, the week of Sept. 16.

Communicating with his wife by video only an hour before he died, John Burner said that he was having tingling in his fingers and toes and that it seemed "like nobody really cares," she said.

Confined to his quarters, he told her no one was checking on him as he lay ill and waited for the arrival, later in the week, of medical testing equipment, she said.

She continues to question why medical workers in Kuwait, where he first complained of being sick, or in Baghdad, where he was examined by a physician, didn't keep him near a hospital and perform testing that could have diagnosed his illness and saved his life.

"The answer is just why didn't they?" she said.

Her husband had "every single one of the symptoms" of thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the legs, such as tingling, numbness, low blood pressure, seizures and collapse, she said.

Sometimes known as a silent killer, vein thrombosis can be caused by prolonged periods of inactivity, such as travelers experience on long, confined flights.

If he had been diagnosed, her husband could have been treated with blood thinners or clot-busting drugs, she said.

The unit deployed Aug. 21 for a yearlong mission, and she said she is not allowed to contact members of the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, with which he was a satellite systems team chief.

Chris Grey, a public affairs officer in the Army's criminal investigations division, said that the Army was "aggressively investigating" the circumstances surrounding Burner's death, as it does with all unattended deaths.

"We investigate all deaths as if they were homicides," Grey said in a telephone interview last week, "to make sure we have a complete picture of how things transpired."

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dani 10/09/10 - 09:08 am
I am so glad that the family

I am so glad that the family has the answer they were searching for. We all question "why" when we lose a loved one, and especially when it is your child. My prayers are with you.

bree026 10/09/10 - 04:16 pm
In response to Dani: Amen..

In response to Dani: Amen.. My prayers are with the family.

CoastalDawg 10/09/10 - 11:22 pm
I'm so sorry for that

I'm so sorry for that family's loss and in reality it would seem as if it was unnecessary. I had a full premed course in college, I worked in a medical laboratory for years - as SOON as I heard that young man's symptoms my mind went immediately to pulmonary thrombosis, blood clot in the lung. Why in the world army doctors didn't suspect that is beyond me. Although treatment must be aggressive that diagnosis does not have to result in death and he certainly presented himself in plenty of time to have avoided that terrible conclusion to his life. I trust that the powers that be in the army will take a long hard look at why this happened and do everything it can to insure that doctors who are there to treat our military men and women are qualified and are not more interested in getting them back to their units than saving their lives. My prayers are with the family.

corgimom 10/10/10 - 10:32 am
While I sympathize and truly

While I sympathize and truly understand Mrs. Burner's pain, as the mother of a brain-injured child who was born at DDEAMC- you are part of a club that no one ever wants to join- suffering because of inadequate military health care to the levels of malpractice, and in your husband's case, death. I know first hand what that is like.

They do the best they can, but the only people that can give them more money is Congress. Instead of being angry at the Army, call your Congressman and Senator.

xtremesrfr74 11/18/10 - 09:31 pm
I was recently MEDEVAC'ed

I was recently MEDEVAC'ed from Iraq for the same thing. I awoke at 4:00 am with extreme shortness of breath. I went to the Army Hospital and after a few tests they recommended I get a CT scan. After that scan I was diagnosed with a serious bilateral pulmonary emoblus. I was immediately started on blood thinners and evac'ed from Iraq. I am 36 years old and never had any kind of problems like this in the past. I have seen 3 military specialists and 1 civilian Physician Assistant. The civilian PA is the only one that has ordered tests to find the cause of the clots. The military Doctors seemed more worried about sending me back to parent unit than finding out why this is happening.

tinak77 07/20/11 - 07:16 am
My boyfriend now has problems

My boyfriend now has problems with blood clots since returning to Iraq. He is 26 years old and extremely healthy. He never had any health problems until he returned from his 3rd tour. The doctors have tested him and have found no genetic link for his blood clots. A year ago he had shortness of breath and sharp pains; he went to the ER and they found two blood clots, one in his right and one in his left lung. About two weeks ago the same thing occured again and he had a new one in his right lung. These unexplained blod clots need to be looked at more by the military. I wonder how many other healthy service men are going to have these blood clots. Something needs to be done! My boyfriend cannot even claim it on discibility because they cannot "prove" that it was definitely caused from something in Iraq. I just wonder how many people are having this problem? Again, something needs to be done!!!!

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