Health Care

More | | | Editor

Augusta family blames Vietnam vet's death on Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014 7:03 PM
Last updated Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 1:17 AM
  • Follow Latest News

Karen Burough said her husband’s body finally gave out after eight years of postponed appointments, delayed treatment plans and misdiagnoses at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Back | Next
Karen Burough says the death of her husband, Henry, might have been prevented with proper care from the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Karen Burough says the death of her husband, Henry, might have been prevented with proper care from the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Henry Burough’s death certificate states the former Army staff sergeant died May 9 around 5:35 a.m. at age 62 of cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes and high blood pressure.

His wife of 12 years, along with the couple’s three children, say the lack of care Burough received at the Augusta VA contributed to the death of the man who trained military dogs to detect land mines for Vietnam War soldiers from 1969 to 1972.

Karen Burough has CT scans from private hospitals that show what the VA could not find: a gallbladder filled with stones; a liver that failed because of an untreated case of hepatitis C; and stomach, kidneys and spleen enlarged to the point that her husband had difficulty eating solid foods and needed a catheter.

“It has been hard for me – very hard,” Karen Burough said at her south Augusta home last week. “I have so much hate for that VA hospital. They totally ignored my husband and now he’s gone.”

Because his death was not caused by cancer, Burough is not considered to be one of the three fatalities that directly resulted from the Augusta VA’s botched gastrointestinal program between 2011 and November 2012. However, his death raises broader questions about how far back the hospital’s problems date.

Karen Burough is one of three people to share information with The Augusta Chronicle about inadequate care and improperly sterilized equipment that suggests the issue might date back at least eight years and is part of a culture of delayed consultations.

The House Committee on Vete­rans Affairs is investigating the administration of former director Rebecca Wiley for the missteps, but a timeline provided by the Augusta VA shows Wiley, now retired and living in North Augusta, did not become head of the hospital until 2007.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., will lead a congressional oversight visit to the Augusta VA on Monday. Officials will try to determine what caused the patient deaths, what actions have been taken to correct the problems and who is responsible for letting patients slip through the cracks.

Burough said she wants answers about why her husband didn’t get the care he deserved.

“We still do not know how Henry got hepatitis C,” she said. “My husband would not have died so quickly if they had started treatment sooner and monitored his liver more effectively.”

Burough’s wife said his troubles began in 2005, when he was admitted to the Augusta VA for an inflamed prostate, 14 years after the hospital diagnosed him as a borderline diabetic, with his blood-sugar levels in the 250 range. The American Diabetes Association has reported that blood glucose levels greater than 250 can lead to coma or death.

During this stay at the hospital, his primary care physician diagnosed him with hepatitis C and filed a work order for a gastroenterologist to schedule an appointment with the family to go over his condition and start a treatment plan. But Karen Burough said her husband didn’t get that appointment until seven years later, despite progress notes filed by the VA on April 6, 2011, stating that Burough had hepatitis C and a “fatty-cirrhotic liver.”

In March 2010, Karen Burough took Henry to the VA when he became nauseated and complained of sharp stomach pains every time he ate. Hospital staff told them it was a minor virus and sent him home.

When his condition worsened, Burough said, she took him to Trinity Hospital, where a CT scan revealed gallstones. The couple returned to the VA with the test results, and he was admitted for a week. Burough said her husband did not see a doctor, only interns.

“They did not do anything,” she said. “I finally ended up pulling him out and taking him to MCG to have his gallbladder removed. When the staff took it out, it was extremely enlarged with multiple stones inside.”

A visit to Doctors Hospital in early 2012 showed he had cirrhosis of the liver. At that point, Karen Burough said, she presented the test results to the VA and finally got an appointment with a gastroenterologist. The specialist at the VA prescribed antiviral medications and a weekly shot; however, the drugs did not agree with his system, his wife said.

On July 1, 2012, an EMS report states that Karen Burough awoke at 3 a.m. to find her husband on the floor in their bedroom, incoherent and not breathing. She and her children called 911, and an ambulance took him to the VA. Test results show the medications prescribed to him had formed a ball on top of his liver, causing the organ to rupture. He was admitted into intensive care and later fell into a coma.

Burough said the VA attempted to perform a CT scan to determine the cause of his coma, but before they could, her husband went into cardiac arrest and was jolted back to life, despite his living will containing a do-not-resuscitate clause.

“When he finally awoke from his coma, it seemed like his mind was fading in and out of consciousness,” Burough said.

She said she and her children would often find him lying in soaking wet clothes and old diapers at the Augusta VA’s downtown branch.

Burough said the family called the hospital’s patient advocate, who assigned her husband to rehabilitation at the medical center’s uptown campus.

A discharge summary shows he was released in Septem­ber 2012 and states that he was to have “out-patient followup in three to four weeks.” The summary said the VA would schedule the appointment, but Burough said it didn’t.

A month later, Burough said, her husband began passing extremely dark urine. She said the family tried to schedule an appointment at the VA but was told he could not be seen until January. A visit to Doctors Hospital found he had a urinary tract infection.

“When the doctor came in, he told the family – and Henry, too – that it was only a matter of time now and all we could do is keep Henry as comfortable as possible,” Bur­ough said.

On May 1, Henry Burough was put in hospice care after he reported spells of dizziness and difficulty breathing. On May 4, he celebrated his grandson’s second birthday. Karen Burough recalled walking in on him that night as he told his grandson that “papa’s going to be leaving in a few days and will not be back. Always remember papa loves you.”

Five days later, Burough died.

Karen Burough said she made the VA aware of her husband’s inadequate care during a conference in 2010 with administration, but officials told her his health situation wasn’t government related and not a high priority.

Hospital spokesman Pete Scovill said he could not discuss the details of Burough’s case because of confidentiality laws; however, he said the hospital takes all complaints seriously and invites all veterans to call his office at (706) 733-0188 if they feel they are owed compensation or their case is in need of further review.

Burough said after years of being ignored, she has lost faith in the hospital’s word.

“My husband gave his all for this country,” she said. “For him to totally be ignored, is just not right. He deserved better.”

Comments (43) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
bubbasauce
22997
Points
bubbasauce 01/04/14 - 08:02 pm
6
2
Very sad and it just goes to

Very sad and it just goes to show how these VA hospitals care less about our heroes. Shame on the doctors all the way down the line to the nurses, and especially everyone involved. I hate to say it but I would get a lawyer and sue the VA. Again, what a shame this hospital!

itsanotherday1
46852
Points
itsanotherday1 01/04/14 - 08:14 pm
11
1
I'm reluctant to paint with a

I'm reluctant to paint with a broad brush since there are competent and incompetent people in every profession; but the fact is that the VA is illustrative of government everywhere. It is full of people who do the minimum, and for those who go the extra mile, red tape and rules tangle them up.
We need as little of government as possible in every phase of our lives, certainly not more.

IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 01/04/14 - 08:33 pm
7
1
Sad Situation

This is so sad and I feel for Mrs. Bourough and her family, she was knowledgeble and was very much a part of her husbands care plan and ran into blocks at every turn. I question how many more cases there are such as this that have not been reported, many veterans do not have family or friends involved in there healthcare and inadequate treatment has not been reported. This has gotten to the crisis level I feel personel involved should be examined closely and held accountable. Veterans are trusting these facilities with their life and those in charge are not acting in a a responsible manner. If a foster parent who the government has put in charge of a childs health did not seek proper treatment they would be held liable so what is the difference with adults that are at the mercy of the system.

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 01/04/14 - 09:23 pm
5
7
But Karen Burough said her

But Karen Burough said her husband didn’t get that appointment until seven years later, despite progress notes filed by the VA on April 6, 2011, stating that Burough had hepatitis C and a “fatty-cirrhotic liver.”

Wait a minute.

If I was told that an appointment would be scheduled for me, after a reasonable amount of time, I'd be on the phone and going down there.

SEVEN YEARS???

How and why would anybody wait 7 years to be seen? Something is not right with this story, no rational person waits 7 years to be seen by a doctor.

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 01/04/14 - 09:27 pm
3
10
But here I'm going to get on

But here I'm going to get on my soap box again.

The VA has been saying for YEARS how understaffed and overworked and underfunded they are.

There have been NUMEROUS stories over the years of the poor condition of the VA hospitals nationwide.

My father died 11 years ago; and even then, we wouldn't allow him to be treated at a VA hospital, because we knew of the inadequacy of care.

Where have all these people been all these years? This is nothing new and it's just going to get worse. People act so shocked; they shouldn't, it's a wonder that the VA hospitals are able to provide the level of care that they do.

The only solution to this is a significant increase in income tax. Are all of you willing to pay it?

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 01/04/14 - 10:33 pm
4
7
But something else I wonder

But something else I wonder about.

When this woman became dissatisfied with the care her husband was receiving, WHY did they keep going back there?

One episode would've been enough for me, I wouldn't keep going back!

IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 01/05/14 - 02:12 am
9
1
corigmon

She may not have had the luxury of taking him to a facility that did not honor his military benefits I do not know her situation. I do know that veterans are entitled to the benefits they earned defending our country and they should not get substandard care no matter what their financial standing is.

JimS
166
Points
JimS 01/05/14 - 06:55 am
3
0
Reality, it's the Country Served that Ignores!!!
Unpublished

The Abandoning of the missions and the purposes of, along with the once
again promises to the Afghan people, first time was after the
Afghan/Soviet long war, quickly after 9/11, with the Lives still being lost, those serving still being wounded!!! Giving rise to, with the rhetoric from within, not a victory over, and spread of al Qaeda type ideology criminal terrorism!!!

The Cost of War, All Costs, the Responsibility of Those Served

"12 years also is a long time. We now have a lifetime responsibility
to a generation of service members, veterans and their families." Dr. Jonathan Woodson 11 Sep. 2013: 'With 9/11 Came Lifetime Responsibility'

There's only one branch of Government, Federal and States, consistently
doing for not only us Veterans' but also the Military personal and their
Families and without the control of the Countries purse strings and combining
the Cabinet agencies abilities to help where possible with their
budgets. That's the whole Executive branch under President Obama. Doing
what Congress, and State legislatures in passing feel patriotic support bills that are unfunded, and the people represented by them and served by the
Military refuse to do, Sacrifice, especially the wealthy!

Decades, and wars of, of under funding the VA. With these two recent
wars little was done for the Veterans of as well as the Military
personal, i.e. Walter Reed as one example, and their Families, in the
first years of both under the previous executive branch and those
congresses. Rubber stamped war costs, off the books and on the countries
credit card with no bid private contracts, including building an
expensive private merc army! That's not adding in all the other rubber
stamped costs of the bush administration policy wants, especially in the
first six years of!

Rachel Maddow: "We got a huge round of tax cuts in
this country a few weeks before 9/11. Once 9/11 happened and we invaded
Afghanistan, we kept the tax cuts anyway.
How did we think we were going to pay for that war? Did we think it was
free?

Then, when we started a second simultaneous war in another country, we
gave ourselves a second huge round of tax cuts. After that second war
started. The wars, I guess, we thought would be free, don`t worry about
it, civilians. Go about your business." 23 May 2013

"If military action is worth our troops’ blood, it should be worth
our treasure, too" "not just in the abstract, but in the form of a
specific ante by every American." -Andrew Rosenthal 10 Feb. 2013

David (CBS News) Martin: "Then there's the financial cost. To date,
the Pentagon has spent more than $500 billion on the war in Afghanistan.
A defense spending bill the Senate is expected to pass this week would
add another $80 billion to that." 17 December 2013

That's not counting those decades to come results from costs and the once again ignored, by those served, issues!

The wars, neither Afghanistan nor Iraq, have yet been paid for. Nor
especially the now decades to come, DeJa-Vu all over again, the of
results for those sent, over and over, and the continuing under funding
the Peoples Responsibility, the Veterans Administration charged with
much more then just caring for the wounded, as those served ignore most
of those results from!!

'Cost of War' site {real and estimated costs}: "Total
US federal spending associated with the Iraq war has been $1.7 trillion
through FY2013. In addition, future health and disability payments for
veterans will total $590 billion and interest accrued to pay for the war
will add up to $3.9 trillion." 19 March 2013 © 2011 Watson Institute, Brown University

USN All Shore '67-'71 GMG3 Vietnam In Country '70-'71

GnipGnop
12692
Points
GnipGnop 01/05/14 - 07:45 am
9
3
I offer this article

as a example of why I am against Obamacare. You will see thousands of cases just like this.

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 01/05/14 - 08:28 am
3
6
IBeDog, yes, she did, the

IBeDog, yes, she did, the story talks repeatedly as to how she took him to private facilities.

SJL1204
188
Points
SJL1204 01/05/14 - 08:30 am
7
2
National health care

The Va is a giant system, national health care for vets. Under staffed and under funded. The public will soon experience this system , it's called Obama care.

kburough
50
Points
kburough 01/05/14 - 10:09 am
9
0
You need to ask me!!!!

Corgimom, all you need to do is ask, everything is not in the paper, it would that a lot of pages. I kept calling and was being told a appt was being sent. He seen his primary doc there every 6 mths and he kept putting in request. I went down there a lot and even talked to Associate Director & patient advocate a couple times because I could not get to see the Director. I even gave them 13 pages of no appointments, what was going on etc.

He was a disabled Vietnam Vet. He found out in 2005 about all the chemicals sprayed on them in Vietnam. I found out by a patient advocate that my husband had been ignored.

People need to ask what they would like to know, I even have all his records & reports & can back up what I say.

These men & women serve the USA to be treated like dirt & ignored.

kburough
50
Points
kburough 01/05/14 - 09:25 am
5
0
daughter of the vet

we called all the time wanting to know when his apt was and all we got was we will let you know. we were calling every week about this. the fact is the va doesn't care about the vets!! we were told that my dad was not important enough to get the treatment he needed..

skeptical
84
Points
skeptical 01/05/14 - 09:29 am
6
0
VA care is abysmal

Irrespective of the merits of this case, the care at the VA is generally abysmal. The nurses are unionized and unmotivated - attempts to remove incompetent nurses lead to appeals and reinstatements - complex surgical cases are routinely transferred to Eisenhower or MCG. No way I'd take my family member there unless I had NO other options.

carcraft
27834
Points
carcraft 01/05/14 - 10:01 am
1
2
I worked at the VA for 10

I worked at the VA for 10 years from 1988 to 1999. There was an excellent Heart Program ran by Dr Pia with very good numbers and care seemed to be pretty good. The Chief of my Department got his care there (he could have afforded care any where. My mom got her care there. The nurses watched pretty closely what was going on.

carcraft
27834
Points
carcraft 01/05/14 - 10:10 am
1
2
I worked at the VA for 10

I worked at the VA for 10 years from 1988 to 1999. There was an excellent Heart Program ran by Dr Pia with very good numbers and care seemed to be pretty good. The Chief of my Department got his care there (he could have afforded care any where. My mom got her care there. The nurses watched pretty closely what was going on.

RunningMan
346
Points
RunningMan 01/05/14 - 10:12 am
3
5
No Idea

Many of you commenting have no idea what is going on at the local VA hospital everyday to take care of veterans. I do, and I have no problem with their service and care for me. Matter of fact, I prefer going to the local VA vs. the Fort Gordon hospital. When I call for an appointment, I get it right away depending on the reason(s) for the appointment. Stop using this one incident to cast stones at the entire VA healthcare system. And please stop making it seem that the new Health Care Law in the country is going to so bad when you are sitting on the sideline getting your facts from your favoriate new sources. Every hospital has issues and not all will be happy with the service. VA is no exception from this fact. I am sorry for the lost of her husband, but this article is not going to change or help the situation. Instead it will cause others to think badly about the VA hospital when that is not the case at all.

daphne3520
950
Points
daphne3520 01/05/14 - 11:09 am
0
0
One TROLL is here, as usual! And, by her own admission, she
Unpublished

does NOT even live near Augusta!

Junket103
452
Points
Junket103 01/05/14 - 12:04 pm
3
2
Two Sides To Every Story

While the Chronicle did a good job of presenting the family's history and dealings with the VA bureaucracy, there is another side to this story, that needs to also be presented for public review. Since the VA won't cooperate with the media because of privacy regulations, there is a solution. The family can wave all privacy concerns and allow the media full access to patient records and any investigations that may have been conducted by VA. Either the VA is clearly negligent as has been alleged or there are additional facts that might explain more fully what actually happened. At a minimum the VA Office of Inspector General should have already conducted a thorough investigation. If the IG has not, then the issue of a cover-up could be raised as family have reported that certain VA staff acknowledged poor care was being provided. The VA staff, as do all Federal Employees, have a responsibility to report these issues to upper management or ultimately the IG if corrective action is not forthcoming.

Negative publicity, if true, can help educate and potentially improve care. However, if the publicity is not true and not refuted, it leaves everyone with a negative impression. For some Veterans that negative publicity may encourage them to not use VA for care. Which can be problematic because some of these individuals will opt out of health care in general.

kburough
50
Points
kburough 01/05/14 - 12:23 pm
3
0
Husbands death.

I am a retired nurse of 20 yrs. I know how other hospital are. But the VA is a lot worse than most. VA hospitals are suppose to take care of the people who severed this country and not ignore them. No matter what their conditions are.

He was under Agent Orange & had everything on their except cancer that we know of. Why would any VA bring doctors in that do not even speak English? You can beg & plead with the director but they do not care. Most of the staff are the worst I have ever seen. They do not take care or help the people in the VA hospital.

And for Vets to be ignored because their "problem is not a military problem." Most of the problems is because of the military.

My husband kept saying that he was a Vet and that was one reason he wanted to keep going back.

The only one that kept trying to help him was 2 different primary docs he had over the years but the last one you couldn't understand her & she ignored him.

Then his PTSD doc retired but he couldn't never get a apt to see a new one.

I do not have a problem with giving anyone the right to look, but of course I have all the reports, doc reports, test, labs etc, all the way back to 1994. So as I said I can prove what I am talking about & the reporter seen & went through a lot of the papers.

IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 01/05/14 - 12:49 pm
4
0
Thanks for additional info Mrs. Burough

Your making this information public and continuing to update even when negative post are made gives even more clarity to the issue. By you speaking out you are not only doing what you have to for your deceased husband you are also speaking for other veterans who have suffered quitely. May you and your family find closure on this journey!

allhans
24499
Points
allhans 01/05/14 - 01:04 pm
0
0
My nephew died at aged 52

My nephew died at aged 52 while a patient at the VA being treated for cirrhosis of the liver. The VA didn't take his life, drinking alcohol did. He never stopped drinking bourbon even after repeated warnings by the VA doctors.
My brother went through the same hospital and was told that he MUST stop drinking, he did, and is now 86 years old and doing great.

I am not saying the VA is doing right, or that this is not always the case, but that it is not always the fault of the other person.

allhans
24499
Points
allhans 01/05/14 - 02:33 pm
0
0
oops................

oops................

kburough
50
Points
kburough 01/05/14 - 01:32 pm
3
0
Husbands death.

My husband did not drink or use drugs.

Yes, I am standing up for the care that all Vets get at the VA.

My own father served 24 yrs & he had a cough & chest hurting, they took xrays & was told just a virus. This went on 3 times. Mom finally took him to a private ER & they checked & even checked the x-rays taken at VA. They told us that dad had lung cancer in bad stage & they couldn't understand why he wasn't told at VA. He died 8 mths later, but before they ended up paying him so he wouldn't tell anyone.

So, I AM TAKING UP & SPEAKING OUT ABOUT THIS POOR CARE THAT VETS GET.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 01/05/14 - 02:23 pm
5
0
"The only solution to this is
Unpublished

"The only solution to this is a significant increase in income tax. Are all of you willing to pay it?"
What a bunch of crap. Gov't bureaucrats are p*ssing away our money now and another typical progressive wants to raise taxes. How about cutting funds from the deadbeats and leaches and properly funding the VA? What a bunch of liberal ignorance.

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 01/05/14 - 02:31 pm
0
3
Oh, great idea, be sure and

Oh, great idea, be sure and tell that to your Congressperson! Why are you wasting your time telling ME?

Do you think that I appropriate funds for VA hospitals?

Oh, and do you think that you'll be listened to?

Who said that I WANTED to raise taxes, I pay them too?

It's amazing to me, some of the posts on here.

corgimom
36570
Points
corgimom 01/05/14 - 03:05 pm
0
4
As I have stated, I am not a

As I have stated, I am not a fan of VA hospitals. I would not allow my father to go to one. I wouldn't even take my dogs to one.

But when you wait 7 years for an appointment, you really can't put a lot of blame on a hospital. People have to take responsibility for themselves, it's their life, their health, and their body.

I can guarantee everybody on here that it would never take me, or anybody in my family, 7 years to get an appointment to anything. Ever.

Riverman1
90291
Points
Riverman1 01/05/14 - 03:38 pm
0
0
Private Clinics and Hospitals Don't Self Report

Mrs. K. Burough, I'm sorry for your loss. My point though, is the VA self reports problems while the private sector doesn't. If a private clinic doing endoscopies of any kind had troubles you would never know. Can you imagine an IG team examining a private medical clinic and what they would find?

IBeDogGone
3015
Points
IBeDogGone 01/05/14 - 03:57 pm
1
0
Elective Procedures

The more I read these comments the more upset I get. I am fixing to go off the subject of the VA and rant on TriCare that is for military dependants and I am sure funds for VA and TriCare are part of the same bucket of funds. I am not opposed to TriCare benefits for families, they deserve these due to the service their active military family member served. I am opposed to the misuse of these benefits, I have a friend whose deceased husband retired from the Army and she has had elective breast surgery due to family history. I have no problem with that, I do get upset that she was sent off base to have reconstruction with implants size of her choice and has been back in the hospital twice for cosmetic purposes due to her reconstruction. If I had a mastectomy and wanted to have reconstruction I would have to pay for it. I have good health insurance and pay for my portion after my employee pays for portion. This friend has also had gastric bypass surgery, I too would have to pay for that unless it was a serious health issue demanding it be done. She had none of the diagnosis usually associated with this surgery being approved by private insurnce, such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.

As mentioned above with the new Healthcare Reform Act I will have fewer options with my healthcare. LETS TAKE THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF HEALTHCARE. The VA could be more efficiently administered through a contracted for profit agency with better care for all than it is now.

teaparty
11313
Points
teaparty 01/05/14 - 04:13 pm
2
1
"The only solution to this is
Unpublished

"The only solution to this is a significant increase in income tax. Are all of you willing to pay it?"
corgimom, you OFFERED A TAX INCREASE AS THE ONLY solution to the problem which is a standard liberal solution, throw more money at the problem. I agree with your statement, "It's amazing to me, some of the posts on here".

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs