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Army vet: VA treatment caused frostbitten penis

Oct. 2, 2012 - 10:23AM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 2, 2012 - 10:23AM  |  
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An Army veteran is seeking $10 million from the federal government, accusing a Veterans Administration nurse of repeatedly putting ice packs on his penis after surgery, causing frostbite and gangrene and ultimately leading to the organ's partial amputation.

Michael D. Nash of Louisville filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Louisville for what he calls medical malpractice.

Nash, who served in the Army in 1968 and 1969, went to the VA hospital in Lexington for medically necessary surgery on his penis. Nash's attorney, Larry Jones of Jones Ward law firm in Louisville, said that after the procedure a nurse packed Nash's groin in ice for 19 hours.

"It basically caused frostbite on his penis, which eventually caused gangrene," Jones said. "In addition to robbing someone of their manhood, they've robbed him of the simple ability to urinate just like every other person who lives in this world."

A message left for the Veterans Administration was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

Nash, 61, entered the VA hospital on Oct. 28, 2010, to have a penile implant and circumcision. A nurse applied ice packs to Nash's groin to reduce pain and swelling. The problem arose when the medical staff allowed the ice packs to remain in place for about 19 hours.

Jones described it as "non-stop ice replacement."

"Any doctor who is monitoring the care of their patient is not going to allow someone to have constant treatment with ice ... for more than 2-3 hours," Jones said.

Gangrene set it in within a few weeks, causing doctors to remove a five-inch section of Nash's penis — a procedure for which he continues to receive medical care, Jones said. Nash will need reconstructive surgery that will allow him to urinate, Jones said.

"It's about the most blatant medical malpractice error one could make," Jones said. "It's a senseless tragedy that should never have happened."

Nash initially pursued compensation under the Federal Tort Claims Act — a civil procedure that requires a person to file a claim with the government and prevents him or her from suing until the claim is resolved.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reviewed the claim and rejected it in July.

"It is our opinion that there was no negligence on the part of the Department of Veterans Affairs or any of its employees in connection with the claimed loss; therefore your claim is denied," wrote Melinda Frick, Indianapolis-based regional counsel for the VA.

Jones said the extent of Nash's injuries is what prompted the lawsuit.

"If this was someone who had a little frostbite and a little burning for a couple of days, there would be no suit," Jones said. "I would not wish this on my worst enemy."

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