Owen Reese Peterson, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran, initially went to the Oklahoma VA for an infection, which later ended up as sepsis – a condition in which chemicals, released by the immune system into the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger an inflammation throughout the body, damaging multiple organ systems, leading them to fail, commonly resulting in death.
Myles Deering, director of the Talihina Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs center, confirmed the maggots found did not enter the wound after Peterson’s death. Rather, they were present while he was still alive. He also stressed Peterson “did not succumb as a result of the parasites. He succumbed as a result of the sepsis.”
Peterson’s son, Raymie Parker, described his frustration with how poorly his father was treated saying, “During the 21 days I was there, … I pled with the medical staff, the senior medical staff, to increase his meds so his bandages could be changed.” And that he “Was met with a stonewall for much of that time.”
The result of this is that four staff members have resigned in wake of the investigation: a physician’s assistant and three nurses.
Deering said the agency reported the incident to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, and also submitted a report to the district attorney to see if charges are warranted.
Deering also said the agency is considering moving from the facility as it is nearly 100 years old, adding that fixing the existing structures would take millions of dollars.
Oklahoma State Sen. Frank Simpson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, said, “The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs is required to maintain certain staffing levels and currently is unable to meet them. At Talihina, they had to reduce the population of veterans there due to the inability to staff the facility.”