ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. (WFLA) — Rayford Hill’s final decision was not a reflection of the type of person he was, and now his widow is pursuing answers about his last doctor’s appointment.
Shirley Hill and the decorated Vietnam veteran were together for 28 years.
“We just all were in shock,” Hill said. “It’s horrible.”
Hill now walks the family dogs alone. Walking or even sitting was excruciating for her husband, Hill said, adding that it was especially torturous during the last three months of his 85 years of life.
“He told me it felt like pins and needles were just sticking and jabbing in his legs and his feet,” Hill said. “He said it was just a constant pain.”
Hill said during what turned out to be her husband’s final doctor’s appointment last September, his request for the VA to pay for a Neurolumen Pain Management device was denied by his VA doctor.
Hill called a nurse at her husband’s doctor’s office the day after the appointment to ask why the request was denied.
“[An assistant said] ‘she can’t take your call, but she’ll call you back,’ ” Hill said. “That was September 9. I never got a phone call back from her.”
According to emails sent to the physician from Neurolumen Provider Specialist Kim Davis, the device has been prescribed in VA facilities more than 600 times.
Ninety-three percent of the patients reported a “reduction in pain” and 34 percent said they needed fewer medications after using the device, according to Davis.
During the few weeks after the denial, Hill planned his own funeral, then ended his life behind the mortuary where the service would be held.
“I’m sorry. You just cannot imagine,” Hill said through tears. “You’ll never know what it feels like if someone tells you someone you love and have lived with 28 years has shot and killed himself.”
Hill said everyone close to her husband was shocked.
“He never even gave me an indication he was going to do that,” Hill said. “Even his kids said they never thought dad would do this to himself.”
His widow is also waiting for answers.
“I think they’re not listening to the veterans,” Hill said. “It’s very frustrating to me as a spouse and I’m sure to other spouses. Can you imagine what it’s like for the veterans?”
Hill gave the VA written permission to discuss her husband’s case with 8 on Your Side.
James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital spokesperson Alicia Burden responded to questions about Hill’s request Thursday afternoon.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the family for their loss,” Burden said in an emailed statement.
Burden claimed Hill did not request the Neurolumen device at the September appointment.
“As no pain concerns were expressed by the patient during this appointment, the device was not ordered,” Burden said.
Shirley Hill insists the emails from Neurolumen employee Kim Davis to her husband’s doctor indicate there was a conversation involving her husband’s request.
One email from Davis the day before the appointment states Hill “is interested in a Neurolumen pain management device.”
A follow up email from Davis the day after the appointment states, “Mr. Hill would like to use the device for his neuropathy.”
Hill also recalled a conversation she had with the doctor’s nurse.
“She said [my husband] had been there twice asking for the machine,” Hill said. “She said, the doctor said he is not going to give him that machine.”