SHERIDAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Sana Gaffney is fed up with the VA, saying she had to take it upon herself to find her son, a U.S. Army veteran, the care he needs.
Adam Davis, 28, of Sheridan, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a rare medical condition. When his mother turned to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after he suffered a recent breakdown, finding treatment proved difficult.
“He served his country, he did his duty. But they’re not upholding their end of the deal. They’ve abandoned him,” Gaffney told 24 Hour News 8 Monday.
Davis served in the Army for six years. He was deployed to Haiti in 2010 to provide aid after a deadly earthquake.
“When he walked onto the island, it was tens of thousands of dead bodies, everywhere,” his mother described.
Davis returned home and finished his service in 2015, but what he saw in Haiti never left him. Last summer, he suddenly got sick and started having seizures. Soon after, he was diagnosed with PTSD and started suffering psychogenic nonepileptic seizures as a result of his illness. His mental state only worsened from there.
Last week, it came to a breaking point.
“He had a break that day, last Tuesday. Started having seizures,” Gaffney said. “I ended up calling 911 for help.”
Davis was taken to Sheridan Community Hospital so doctors could stabilize him, but it quickly became clear the small facility didn’t have the resources to effectively treat him.
That’s when Gaffney, a registered nurse, started reaching out to VA centers in Michigan.
First, she contacted the VA Medical Center in Battle Creek. She said officials there reviewed her son’s medical records multiple times but that he was ultimately denied treatment. She said the same thing happened when she contacted the VA facilities in Detroit and Ann Arbor.
“I’ve called and they’ve said, ‘Nope, not going to take him. His heart rate’s over a hundred. OK, he just had a seizure. He’s a smoker. We don’t have the beds. We don’t have the staff.’ The excuses are never-ending,” Gaffney explained.
She said she tried several other avenues too, including reaching out to U.S. senators and representatives. She even called the White House VA Hotline. But after six days at the hospital in Sheridan, she didn’t have any clear answers on where to take her son.
She said she knows his condition is rare and understands that not all facilities can treat him. The most frustrating part of the ordeal, she said, has been the lack of direction or help — especially from the facilities in Michigan.
“It’s embarrassing for our veterans,” Sheridan Community Hospital CEO Randy Flechsig told 24 Hour News 8. “They’re just moving numbers through the system and they’re not caring for the people.”
Flechsig said his hospital has had previous problems working with the VA.
“It is not uncommon on our end of the spectrum working with the caregivers and the various coordinators, you get the runaround,” Flechsig said. “You get one person that calls and is told one thing. Two hours later you get another person that’s told another thing.”
Late Monday afternoon, Davis was released from Sheridan Community Hospital so Gaffney could drive him to Salem, Virginia. Gaffney said she coordinated with a specialist VA facility there and that they would take her son for treatment. She said she discovered the facility on her own and had to force the issue to find a location that would accept her son for treatment.
“This system is not just broken. This system is shattered. Destroyed,” she said.
After 24 Hour News 8 reached out to the Battle Creek VA Medical Center for comment regarding Davis’ situation, Public Affairs Officer Brian Pegouske released the following statement:
“Veteran safety is our utmost concern. Generally, in cases where it is not safe to transfer a Veteran, we work closely with private facilities to coordinate care, request appropriate testing, and ensure the Veteran stays at a higher level medical facility when appropriate.”
Pegouske also promised to reach out directly to Davis.
He said patient privacy laws prevented it from talking specifically about Davis’ case and provided a consent form for Davis to sign so the VA could comment further. After the Davis family provided that consent, Pegouske provided this revised statement to 24 Hour News 8:
“Testing to determine whether the Veteran could be transferred to a VA facility has been on-going throughout his stay at Sheridan Hospital, and Battle Creek VA Medical Center just received the final results of those tests today at approximately 4:00 p.m. Upon preliminary review of the results, the Veteran could be medically stable enough for a transfer and staff at the Sheridan Hospital indicated they would present this option to the Veteran. If the Veteran chooses, then Sheridan Hospital would initiate the transfer request.”
Pegouske clarified in a follow-up email that there were “serious concerns” about moving Davis before those test results came through.
“With the results of the additional testing received, the Veteran could be evaluated for transfer and treatment in Battle Creek,” he added.
By that point, however, Davis and his mother were already en route to Virginia.
In a text message to 24 Hour News 8, Gaffney called the Battle Creek VA’s response an excuse and said it had already reviewed his case three times over the course of six days.