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Family describes veteran's last months in SAVA

Posted at 10:58 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 13:03:21-05
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Tens of thousands of military veterans in Southern Arizona rely on the Tucson VA for medical care.
 
Some vets have told us they've received great care, while others have told us of harrowing stories of delayed and incompetent medical treatment.
  
The veterans and their  families believe the contract with the US government to receive lifelong medical care has been broken -- and broken in a big way.  
 
88 days -- that's the length of time Vietnam veteran Keith Olsen spent at the VA Hospital where he drew his last breath.
 
"It was total chaos," said son Nik Olsen.
 
Olsen describes the family's ordeal after the 68 year old veteran arrived at the VA hospital by ambulance on December 29th, 2012.
 
The Army veteran suffered from kidney disease and had been a patient at the VA for 7 years. "When he went in he was coherent, complaining about his back pain saying he had a fever," said Olsen's son.
 
And over 3 days his condition deteriorated - quickly. Keith's ex-wife and caretaker said the veteran's blood oxygen levels were dangerously low. Records show a nurse tried to reach the Doctor for hours while his fever worsened. "Paged M.D. Paged M.D. The whole day has gone by from noon to 7. Doctors never saw him. Never did anything to him. That was a whole day that went by and nothing was done," said the veteran's son.
 
And Olsen's condition continued to decline. "He was green. He was yellow. He wasn't coherent anymore his speech was garbled. He couldn't eat. He was being poisoned by his kidneys because they couldn't eliminate the waste," said Nick Olsen.
 
Septic shock set in. And the day after New Year's, Keith stopped breathing -- a code blue had been called.
 
He survived. But in February, the family said the doctor told them their loved one was not going to get better.
 
"I called Nik that day and I said he's telling me he's not going to live. And what do you say to someone who says he's not going to live," said Keith's ex-wife.
 
Keith Olsen died March 22, 2012.
 
His ex-wife calls the entire ordeal, "Frustrating, painful, sad."
 
And Nik Olsen. He's angry and says he holds the Tucson VA responsible. "Taking my father away from me. He would have had many good years left. He really would have. And they cut that short. And they we're not the least bit nice about it."
 
Experts say patients can have rapidly progressing multi-system failure and can die from that. But the Olsens say their attempts to get care and attention from the medical staff is inexcusable. 
 
And they're hoping the VA investigates Keith Olsen's death.