His local VA in San Antonio does not perform lung transplants, but it is next door to a surgery center. The University Hospital boasts a 92 percent success rate. Arch can’t go across the street. Instead, the VA sends him 1,200 miles to Madison, Wisconsin.
“It just makes me more susceptible to infections. I’ve had pneumonia a few times - things like that,” said Arch.
He risks his life with each flight. It’s a risk Jamie McBride says is unnecessary.
McBride is a registered nurse, certified clinical transplant coordinator, and Veteran Affairs whistleblower.
“If you look at Madison, Wis., for example, list themselves as doing different types of transplants. They don't actually do any transplants. Our patients fly to Madison, Wis., to go across (the) street to the local university,” said McBride.
McBride wants the VA to operate the same way in San Antonio.
The VA in Wisconsin has a contract in place with another hospital. The hospital does the work and the VA picks up the bill. Veterans who need a transplant must go to one of 13 transplant facilities within the VA.
Researchers looked at VA liver patients who travel hundreds of miles for care. Their study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, states veterans are more likely to die if they have to travel for transplant
“Veterans that were more than 100 miles away from the closest transplant center are disadvantaged. They have less access to a lifesaving transplant which directly correlates to a higher chance of dying,” said Dr. David Goldberg, author of the study.
This study is real life for Pam Moore, of Minnesota.
“I think they should be home where they’re comfortable,” said Moore.
Her husband, John, died waiting for a liver transplant. He was a military police officer who caught hepatitis C from a blood transfusion while in the Army. The family spent years on a VA wait list. The VA sent them every three months to Texas to seek treatment for his liver.
“If it would have been done here, I think he would have had lived. I think he died unnecessarily. That’s truly what I believe,” said Moore.