Patterico's Pontifications


Two Veterans: 500 Yards Too Far, 30 Minutes Too Late For One, And Peacefully Passing In The Presence Of Loved Ones For Another

Filed under: General — Dana @ 9:45 am

[guest post by Dana]

Because news out of the VA simply cannot get any more awful:

A veteran who collapsed in an Albuquerque Veteran Affairs hospital cafeteria — 500 yards from the emergency room — died after waiting 30 minutes for an ambulance, officials confirmed Thursday.

It took a half an hour for the ambulance to be dispatched and take the man from one building to the other, which is about a five-minute walk, officials at the hospital said.

Personnel performed CPR until the ambulance arrived.

According to Paul Bronston, a California emergency-room physician and chair of Ethics and Professional Policy Committee of the American College of Medical Quality,

[I]t may sound ridiculous that staff had to call 911 but that practice is the standard at hospitals. Typically, an ambulance would arrive faster, and other factors can stall workers trying to rush patients to the emergency room on foot.

However, VA spokeswoman Sonja Brown claimed that while the staff followed policy in calling 911 and that the policy is “now under expedited review”, the policy is a local one.

The veteran’s identity has not been released.

Also, World War II veteran and American hero Louis Zamperini, age 97, passed away from pneumonia this week while surrounded by his loved ones. Zamperini became an inspiration to those who knew him, as well as to those of us who came to know him through Laura Hillenbrand’s heart-wrenching biography Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

Born on Jan. 26, 1917, Zamperini’s larger-than-life story began with a blue-collar upbringing in Olean, a city in western New York. When he was 2, the family moved to Southern California, where he spent a rebellious childhood before channeling his energy and tenacity into sports. He started with boxing, to defend himself from bullies, but quickly became a world-class runner after joining his high school track team.

In 1934, Zamperini – nicknamed the “Torrance Tornado” for his hometown of Torrance, California – broke the 18-year-old interscholastic record for the mile in 4:21.2, a mark that would stand for 20 years.

A track star at the University of Southern California, Zamperini competed in the 5,000-meter run at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He finished eighth but caught attention by running the final lap in 56 seconds – and grabbed headlines by stealing a Nazi flag.

But it was Zamperini’s incredible World War II story that captured the imagination of millions back home.

He was a bombardier on a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber that crashed in the Pacific Ocean during a reconnaissance mission. He and one of the other surviving crew members drifted for 47 days on a raft in shark-infested waters, drinking rain water and eating fish and birds they caught with their bare hands, before being captured by Japanese forces. A third man died before they reached land.

“Forty-seven days in a raft, you learn the value of water more than anything in the world,” he told the AP in a 2003 interview. “We prayed for rain to have something to drink. When you’re hungry, you eat anything. We caught a shark. We caught an albatross that tasted like a hot fudge sundae.”

When he and his surviving raft-mate, pilot Russell Allen Phillips, reached land on the Marshall Islands, they were captured by the Japanese, who had also strafed their raft from the air and riddled it with bullet holes.

“I thought to myself, ‘Six weeks ago, I was a world-class athlete,'” he said in that interview. “And then, for the first time in my life, I cried.”

Zamperini would spend more than two years as a prisoner of war being shuttled among Japanese prison camps, where he survived beatings, starvation, debilitating illnesses and psychological torture designed to break him down and make an example of the famous Olympian-turned-war hero.

Several years after his return, Zamperini attended one of Billy Graham’s early revivals in Los Angeles and embraced Christianity – a faith that would sustain him for the rest of his life.

Years later, Zamperini wrote a letter of forgiveness to one of his most horrific tormentors, a guard the other prisoners nicknamed “The Bird.”

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.” -G.K. Chesterton.

Our thanks to both veterans for their service to our country. May they both rest in the peace of God.


11 Responses to “Two Veterans: 500 Yards Too Far, 30 Minutes Too Late For One, And Peacefully Passing In The Presence Of Loved Ones For Another”

  1. TIL, if you’ve been treated at a VA hospital you’re eligible for a VA funeral; if you haven’t, you’re not. If somebody could explain the rationality of that to me?

    nk (dbc370)

  2. One would think that having such things readily available as wheeled gurneys they could have gotten this man to ER in just a few minutes….
    But: Rules are Rules, and good little Apparatchiks follow them.
    Hermann Goering was not available for comment.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  3. nk, you don’t expect any member of the VA to actually ‘know’ the rules now, do you?
    Like everything in this administration, it’s all ad hoc, and mostly lies.

    askeptic (efcf22)

  4. Great post!

    I hope the movie of Zamperini’s life doesn’t omit the importance of his Christianity to him. I’m not really devout, but I also think it’s not “offensive” except to haters.

    Happy 4th all, and blessings on the men and women who gave their all for it.

    Patricia (5fc097)

  5. Patricia,

    I hope his faith is addressed in the film, too. As mentioned in the linked article,

    When he was liberated at the end of the war, he was a changed man and wrestled with rage, depression and alcoholism that almost cost him his marriage.
    “Pain never bothered me,” told the AP in 2003. “Destroying my dignity stuck with me.”

    What “saved” him was a conversion at a Billy Graham crusade. Not unlike others who have suffered in unspeakable ways, faith is the salve to their desperately deep wounds. And as with Corrie Ten Boom, faith gave Zamperini the grace and strength to forgive the one who harmed him the most. Just unbelievable, this gift of faith.

    Dana (4dbf62)

  6. other factors can stall workers trying to rush patients to the emergency room on foot.

    Lunch breaks, phone calls, paperwork, etc.

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  7. Actually, the policy of needing an ambulance to transport a critically ill patient across the street from a doctor’s office to the ER is common, and has been the policy in all examples that I’ve directly known.

    I think the risk management lawyers are responsible for this.
    Certainly no surgeon would ever be involved in such a decision, their idea of a problem is something to be dealt with. (That was said as a positive comment).

    From what little I know, Angelina Jolie (the director-I think that’s it) had become a personal friend of Zamperini and has great respect for him. I’m hoping that will result in a film that Zamperini himself would be happy with, which would include his faith.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  8. His autobiography Devil at my Heels is both gutwrenching for his first hand account at the hands of the Japs and his subsequent troubles and salvation.

    I was not aware of the bio but i can’t believe that it would be possible to be any better than the autobio.

    John Henry

    John Henry (d483c3)

  9. I haven’t read the auto and can’t compare the two, but the bio is great.
    Of course, the man was great, his story was great.
    Maybe it was because Hildebrand had made it big with Sea Biscuit that his story obtained a bigger audience with “Unbroken”. Like too many people, I had never heard of him before.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  10. Louis grew up in my own hometown, and there’s not a single tribute to him there that I have seen in fifty years. God bless ya, Louis, you’re a better man than me.

    Dirty Old Man (4ec992)

  11. Dirty Old Man,

    That’s curious. Why do you think that is?

    Dana (4dbf62)

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