Have a Story to Tell? Had a medical error?

This blog is about patient safety, medical malpractice, staying healthy, and preventing future errors. Help & empower someone else, Teach a lesson, Bear witness, Build our community - Email us or call 781-444-5525.

Frustrated with a health problem?

Need an ally in your health crisis? Call 781-444-5525, or learn more.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Fortunately for me, he didn’t listen: Missed diagnosis

It took Madison, North Carolina resident Peter Griffin nearly 30 years to receive the medals he earned in Vietnam and just as long to acknowledge something he brought back with him from the war - post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“I was 17 when I joined and only 18 when I shipped out to Vietnam,” he said. “Combat is difficult enough for hardened veterans, but so many of us in that war were still just teenagers.”

Peter served with the 101st Airborne Division and the 82nd Airborne Division. He earned the Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze battle stars, the Silver Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Presidential Unit Citation with oak leaf cluster and the Valorous Unit Citation.

Later, as a civilian policeman, he was injured in a fall from a roof while chasing a suspect. At a Veterans Affairs hospital for a checkup, he discussed with doctors the other symptoms he was experiencing.

He sought out a Department Service Officer (DSO), James Ward, while trying to get the Silver Star he earned during a battle in Vietnam. When Ward asked him to describe the incident in which he earned the medal, Peter became agitated and began having flashbacks. The DSO recognized his symptoms and encouraged the veteran to let him file a claim. “I told him I didn’t want him to do it because I didn’t want to be labeled with another disability,” Peter said. “Fortunately for me, he didn’t listen.”

A call from a VA hospital and a series of tests from doctors and psychologists confirmed the DSO’s suspicions and set Peter on a course of treatment to conquer the demons he had long lived with.

PTSD is the result of a psychologically distressing event that produces fear, terror and helplessness in the victim, representing a threat to the victim’s life or a loved one’s life. It shows itself in vivid and troubling flashbacks, emotional numbness, hyper-vigilance, poor sleep habits, poor concentration, and exaggerated irritability. Those symptoms are often accompanied by depression, anxiety, survivor guilt, suicidal urges, nervousness, drug or alcohol abuse, aggressive behavior and changes in cognitive functions.

Peter wrote his story in a book in the hope that “it will be a help to others out there suffering through the same hell I was going through.”

Thanks for your courage then and now, Peter.

Advice to veterans: Tell your story to a friendly advocate who’ll insist on helping you even though you’re just fine, thank you.

Read another story of an undetected condition, or read more of Peter Griffin's story in his book, “When you Hear the Bugle Call” (I don't get any money if you buy it), or in Steve Lawson’s article in the Reidsville Review.

No comments: