"It all started several years ago when I had micro-surgery to treat a Hiatal hernia," says Arthur. (This type of hernia is a condition in which a portion of the stomach protrudes upward into the chest, through an opening in the diaphragm.) The VA doctors told Arthur that they could stop his acid reflux problem by micro-surgery that involved removing a piece of his stomach and making another esophagus. "But during surgery, they accidentally cut a nerve on the side of my stomach that produces the acid that starts the digestion process; they also lost a needle in my stomach during surgery."
According to Arthur, he was the first person to undergo this kind of microsurgery procedure at the VA hospital up on the hill in Portland. "I think I was a guinea pig and they didn't tell me about their mistakes until I had the big surgery—the second one," he explains.
"A few months after the surgery I was getting swollen and very sick. I had more x-rays, including one where you eat radiated scrambled eggs and they watch it digest. Well it didn't digest and that meant another surgery. This time they took out a chunk of food the size of a softball, and opened up the bottom flap of my stomach, so I digested straight into my bowel from then on. And I still am.
"The doctor came into my room a few days after this second surgery and explained what happened and why it was necessary—because of the mistakes that happened during the first surgery. I don't think they knew the nerve had been cut until I was in the operating room—the only thing they were certain of was the lost needle, which he told me not to worry about because I would digest it in my bowels. It sounds crazy but this is all documented in my medical records...
"And now I have another problem: I just had yet another surgery to stretch my esophagus because I was having a hard time swallowing. They scoped me during that surgery and accidentally cut a nerve that controls the stomach, bowel, small and large intestine that moves the food along. Now, none of the signals are reaching the stomach etc. to move the digestion along.
"The doctor told me—and my girlfriend was there so she can back up this statement—that I was "plain f**ked." I have lost over 50 lbs in the last few months. I can barely eat, I can't do anything. And now my doctor is avoiding me so I don't know what to do.
"Naturally I have to be very careful about my diet, but no matter how careful, I go through 'serious dump syndrome': When I go to the bathroom it hurts so much that I literally black out sometimes. In the last 45 days I have been to ER twice at the VA hospital because of this problem. Unfortunately I have no choice: because I'm a disabled veteran I have to go to the VA hospital.
"Last Wednesday I had the radiated egg x-ray again and still haven't got the results. I'm sitting here wondering what the heck I'm supposed to do next; I'm just getting sicker and weaker. I haven't even had an apology, which is no surprise.
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"When I returned from Vietnam, I used to get really good care. I was injured over there and suffered very bad back problems so I collected disability benefits. The nurses were really good to everyone. But now that we have all the new vets coming back from overseas, they are being more sensationalized—they are taken care of first. The Korean and Vietnam vets are set aside while the new guys get special treatment—that's the way I see it anyway. I am a typical example of someone being discriminated against.
"I would like to find out what I can do about my condition because I know it is wrong: someone has to stand up sooner or later…"