Family of cancer-stricken veteran wants answers from the VA after misdiagnosis

Investigations

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The agony of cancer continues to take its toll on a Pasco County veteran and his family.

The family of Navy veteran Lonnie Kilpatrick is searching for answers after they say the VA at Bay Pines missed stage 4 cancer that’s spread to most of his organs and bones.

“It’s heartbreaking when you see him in there crying and throwing up and he says, Why does it have to be cancer?” said Lonnie’s wife Sheila Kilpatrick.

After our investigation into the deadly misdiagnosis aired, the hospital’s Chief of Staff Dr. Dominique Thuriere said she plans to open a peer review of this case.

Dr. Thuriere wants to know if any treatment opportunities for Kilpatrick were missed.

Records show the hospital diagnosed and treated Lonnie for kidney cancer four years ago. Since that diagnosis, he’s experienced worsening hip and back pain. Lonnie was also treated for spinal stenosis and arthritis. The pain grew so intense that in January, his family took him to a civilian hospital.

“They came back in and said he’s got cancer, and it’s everywhere,” explained Lonnie’s daughter Keri Ackerson who is a nurse case manager.

Dr. Thuriere agreed to answer questions about Lonnie’s case as long as the family agreed and Lonnie signed a consent form, which he did.

So, how did doctors miss a cancer diagnosis?

“Well the cancer wasn’t missed,” explained Dr. Thuriere. “Obviously the patient has been treated for a renal cell carcinoma starting in 2013.”

Since Lonnie was diagnosed with cancer, the VA has not seen any evidence of re-occurrence, the doctor told me.

But if he had the disease, and he’s complaining of back pain, why wasn’t anyone at Bay Pines connecting the dots?

“The imaging that we’ve done with an MRI, MRI’S is superior to CT and they can see all the bone structures in his pelvis and his abdomen and there was no evidence that there were other tumors or there was cancer in his bones,” said Dr. Thuriere.

According to the doctor, Lonnie’s medical issues are varied and complex and include a heart transplant, cancer, a degenerative spinal condition. She said the VA put a lot of eyes on him.

But with all these eyes on Lonnie, why didn’t anyone pick up on the possibility of cancer?

“I think you should entertain the possibility that the cancer was not there at that time,” Dr. Thuriere said.

Earlier this week, pain and fatigue overwhelmed Lonnie as he waited at an outside cancer for the VA to approve his treatment.

So, if Lonnie has stage 4 cancer, he lost 50 pounds and he can hardly get out of bed, why is he waiting five hours for VA authorization?

“No, that should not happen,” explained Dr. Thuriere. “No one should be expected to suffer or to wait for that if a veteran needs to have his care authorized that is something that is done immediately it’s something that we monitor, if there was a delay in that I will look into that as well.”If you have something that you think should be investigated contact our Target 8 Helpline at 1 800 338-0808 or contact Steve Andrews at sandrews@wfla.com.

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