DILLSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – “This is my son, Jason Gates,” Jennie Gates-Donnelly of Dillsburg said as she pointed to a wall with photos of military men in her Dillsburg home.
Donnelly is very proud of those patriotic roots.
“That’s my big brother Bob. He was in the Air Force in Korea.”
Jennie’s dad, brothers, uncles and son all served and she’s got the photos to prove it.
Her husband Bob is also a veteran.
“I just feel blah,” Bob said Monday. “I don’t have no energy. I don’t feel like eating.”
Bob was in the Navy in Vietnam and was recently diagnosed with a tumor on his pancreas and lesions on the spleen and liver.
“This is a life or death situation we’re looking at here,” Jennie said with alarm.
The Donnellys say the VA hospital is not attacking Bob’s health crisis fast enough. The sailor in him slipped out.
“I’m pissed off,” he said.
Bob was scanned at the Lebanon VA Hospital on Feb. 7. On Feb. 9, his primary doctor at the Camp Hill VA Clinic confirmed the tumor. Jennie says that doctor said a biopsy was needed and it was urgent, meaning it must be done in two days. But since the Lebanon VA hospital does not do biopsies, the Donnellys had to work through a third-party provider called the Choice Program, according to Jennie.
On Feb. 9, she says the Lebanon VA authorized the biopsy but she struggled to set it up despite being persistent.
“I’ve called every day and been told they’re working on it. How long does it take to make an appointment?” Jennie asked.
Desperate, she sent emails to ABC27 and Congressman Scott Perry, who happens to be an Army general.
“I’m watching my husband being eaten up by cancer. It’s a horrible thing, and you can’t do anything. You feel helpless and hopeless,” Jennie said.
Doug Etter, a spokesman for the Lebanon VA, issued this statement about the Donnelly case.
“Without a signed medical information release form, I cannot comment about the health care of specific veterans. What I can say, however, is that Lebanon VAMC is committed to ensuring veterans receive the best care possible at the most appropriate time. If that care cannot be provided at the medical center or one of our community clinics within the desired timeline, federal law provides us two alternative ways of providing it. We can refer the veteran to what is commonly called the Choice Program which is managed by a third-party administrator who arranges for the veteran’s care. We can also arrange for the veteran to receive non-VA healthcare which we continue to manage. In either case, we cooperate and communicate with all parties involved to ensure veterans receive the best available care.”
Jennie largely agrees. She raves about the care Bob’s gotten in the past from the doctors and nurses that have treated him in the VA system. But in a house full of red, white and blue, she sees the villain as being red tape. She also doesn’t think the VA should be able to push the blame onto a third-party provider and be done with it.
“The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand’s doing,” she said of the VA bureaucracy.
But Jennie certainly knows what she’s doing. Whether it was the email to Congressman Perry or the email to ABC27, she said that late Monday morning she was notified that Bob’s biopsy was scheduled for Thursday afternoon at York Hospital. But that’s still three weeks after that initial diagnosis of a tumor, an eternity for a family in anguish.
“Every day you sit around waiting and I’m watching him suffer,” Jennie said. “He’s in pain. He can’t eat.”