Veteran Covered With Ants On Deathbed At Veterans Affairs Facility: "We Thought Your Dad Was Dead"

Veteran Covered With Ants On Deathbed At Veterans Affairs Facility: "We Thought Your Dad Was Dead"

Joel Marrable, who served in Vietnam, was twice found covered in ants in his bed at the Eagles' Nest Community Living Center in the Atlanta VA Medical Center, a US Department of Veterans Affairs facility.

An Air-Force veteran who served in Vietnam has been twice found at an assisted-living facility covered in ants on his bed. The head of the Veterans Health Administration announced a series of major changes after Joel Marrable, a Vietnam War veteran was discovered with ants all over him and scores of bites on his body. He was living out his final days at the Eagles' Nest Community Living Center in the Atlanta VA Medical Center, a US Department of Veterans Affairs facility. Joel died on September 7, just days after he was found with insect bite marks all over him. 

"What happened at Eagles' Nest was unacceptable, and we want to ensure that Veterans and families know we are determined to restore their trust in the facility," Veterans Health Administration Executive in Charge Dr. Richard Stone said in a statement. "Transparency and accountability are key principles at VA, and they will guide our efforts in this regard."


Joel's daughter Laquana Ross told CNN that though she wasn't particularly angry with the VA over the ants, she still wanted her father's story to incite some kind of positive change within the department. "Maybe this can move the needle and improve the process," she said. "The VA is busy. They have a lot of patients and huge needs they have to address."

According to Laquana, the staff at the facility told her that the workers saw ants on Joel in his bed. She said they told her, "We thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We didn't know what had happened. Everyone jumped in and grabbed him and made sure we did whatever we could to get the ants off of him." Joel, 73, had a feeding tube, was weak from cancer and his ability to talk was limited. He was still alive after the incident, but unfortunately didn't last much longer and passed away within days. She then said that they stripped the bed, cleaned the room and bathed her father after that, but found ants covering his body and bed the very next day. 


After that, Joel's daughter claims to have taken this issue up with the administrator on duty, who told her that her father would be moved and they would check on him every 15 minutes. Just after an hour after being transferred to his new room, Joel breathed his last.  "I felt very small in the world... when my dad died," she said. "Now I am able to share his story and my dad matters to someone beyond me and my family. Now the world knows and the world cares that this happened."


In a statement to CNN affiliate WSB, the VA said the bedrooms at the facility have been stripped, cleaned and inspected for ants. Other measures taken include the removal of open containers and food in the open being removed, staff making more room visits, daily pest control, a third-party exterminator visit and a future visit by a pest specialist from the VA.


Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia said he had contacted the Veterans Affairs Department to "demand answers." "I am shocked, horrified and downright maddened by the news that a veteran under the care of the VA was treated so poorly and without any regard for his well-being," Isakson said. "This patient, at the end of his life, was clearly not being monitored closely enough, and I am so sad for his family who had to discover his insect-infested conditions before anything was reportedly done."


Dr. Richard Stone said that the director of their regional VA network was immediately placed on administrative leave following the disclosure of the incident. In his place, Scott Isaacks, the Charleston, South Carolina, VA Medical Center director will take over the position for the time being. Aside from that, the regional chief medical officer has been detailed to administrative duties pending a review of the quality and safety of care, according to Dr. Stone's statement. Furthermore, seven Atlanta VA medical center staff members were also shifted into non-patient care positions as they all wait for a review of their performance and duties. The department also announced that all VA personnel are being briefed on how to report urgent issues such as this incident. 


In their statement to CNN, the Atlanta VA Health Care System said they "always strive to provide Veterans with the very best health care available. When we don't meet that standard, we hold ourselves accountable." "That's why we have initiated a top-to-bottom review of this situation to ensure it never happens again. We have apologized to the Marrable family and taken immediate action to correct this issue and ensure no other Veterans will be affected in the future," they said. 

Recommended for you