Retired Soldier Denied Benefits for Medical Malpractice
Now fighting the VA for benefits and pay for malpractice
Sgt. 1st Class Barbara Ospina, now retired, is paralyzed and kept to a wheelchair all day due to excruciating pain. What has caused such a thing to happen to this soldier, you may ask? Oh, it's quite simple—she had a spinal surgery in 2004 on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and they left her like this; instead of fixing the issue, they made it worse. She claims medical malpractice and now she went to the DVA (or Department of Veteran Affairs), and has requested payment for the suffering she deals with on a daily basis, and for the government to care for her caregiver that cares for her now. The DVA refused to accept her need for a caregiver, and now she has a lawyer and may be suing for her rights as a Veteran.
Ospina had a treatable birth defect, and after a stroke and dislocated neck, she went to the base hospital and they did surgery, and now she may never walk again, and will definitely never serve again. Had this been a public hospital, she would have been able to sue immediately. But what's the issue? Oh, it's a big issue. The 1950s Supreme Court decision called the Feres Doctrine prevents a surgery from suing the DVA for illness/injury that resulted in combat or service.
Natalie Khawam, the sgt.'s lawyer, says, "Her story represents the egregious conduct, consistent lack of care, and malpractice at the hands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base."
Ospina's life is forever going to be like this; people are hoping and pushing for a new bill that would allow her to seek financial benefits for the huge amounts of damage done to her life. She has a husband, and a son to care for, and now she cannot; she's bound to a wheelchair, and needs a caregiver to help her through her daily life.
Ospina worked in public affairs for the fifth Special Forces Group at Fort Campbell, Kentucky when everything started; headaches, tingling, and losing feeling in her limbs. She asked for an MRI multiple times, and finally got it to find out that her skull was compressing and putting lots of pressure on her cerebellum (or type I Chiari malformation).
now, let's break away from Sgt. 1st Class Barbara Ospina's story, and talk about what causes type I Chiari malformation, and how it can be fixed. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that connects to your spinal cord, and balances out your body and helps you move. So there is a hole at the base of your skull for this connection to take place, and this malformation happens when the cerebellum goes out that hole, and is still connected, but the skull's hole pushes so heavily on the brain tissue to cause issues such as dizziness, muscles weakness and numbness, vision problems, headaches, and some problems with balance and coordination. That does not automatically mean that someone must have symptoms to have this, though; some people have had this with no reported symptoms.
Statistically, men have this less than women do. Scientists believed years ago that this defect happened in one in every 1,000 births, but there is now believed to be more occurrences than that. This is a birth defect nonetheless.
If a doctor suspects someone may have a Chiari malformation, she/he will perform a physical exam and test things such as: balance, touch and reflexes, sensation, and motor skills. Then, an MRI, CT, or other x-ray is usually needed to be sure if the Chiari malformation is there or not.
Treatments are quite easy; if there's no symptoms, there's no need for a surgery. If the only symptom is pain, medications can be given to help ease the pain. But if it is worse than that, surgery is the only action that can successfully take pressure off of the cerebellum, allow brain fluids to flow naturally again, and stop the damage to the nervous system. These surgeries are not easy, but it very easy to have the person leave after the surgery and be okay.
So why is it that Sgt. 1st Class Barbara Ospina is paralyzed and suffers on the daily with pain? I think she should at least get the caregiver benefits.