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Daughter Sounds Alarm After Father was Bitten by Hundreds of Ants at Atlanta VA Hospital

— September 14, 2019

The daughter of a Vietnam vet is sounding the alarm after her father was bitten by hundreds of ants at a VA hospital in Atlanta.

Laquna Ross, the daughter of a Vietnam vet who recently died at an Atlanta VA hospital is speaking out about her father’s treatment and how he died, and the story sounds like it’s straight from a horror story. According to Ross, her father, Air Force veteran dad Joel Marrable who was struggling with cancer, was left alone at the hospital to be “overrun by ants and bitten more than 100 times days before he died.”

Department of Veterans' Affairs Seal
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Seal; image courtesy of United States Department of Veterans Affairs via Wikimedia Commons,

Ross first noticed the bites when she visited her father back on September 6 at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center inside the Atlanta VA Medical Center. At that time the bites were red and swollen. It was the first time she had visited her father in 11 days. She said, “When I took his hand out, it was really swollen, and he flinched. I was really worried and asked a staffer if she could come take a look.”

Instead of concern, Ross said the staffer said, “Well, it’s getting better…you know…from the ants.”

Confused, Ross asked her what she meant and the staffer explained what had happened a few days before. Ross said, “she said my dad had been covered in ants. One of the nurses came in and turned on the lights and just screamed…She told me, ‘We thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We didn’t know what happened with all the ants. We jumped into action, took him into the shower and covered his nose so he could breathe while we washed them off.”

Scared for her father and disturbed by the staffer’s account of events, Ross went to hospital administrators and persuaded them to “agree in the middle of the night to move her dad to a new room.” Her father was moved to a new room on September 7, but died hours later. Ross said:

He had cancer for three years and spent 14 months at the VA. We made a bucket list and went to the Bahamas and laughed and joked up until the end. He was at peace with dying, so it’s so unfortunate this happened right at the end.

When commenting on Marrable’s death and the ant incident, the VA Medical Center in Atlanta expressed “its heartfelt remorse and apology to the families affected by the ant outbreak” and noted it has since taken actions to get rid of the problem. For starters, the center hired a pest control company, removed open food containers and stripped bedrooms. It also issued the following statement:

The Atlanta VA Health Care System leadership team has been notified that ants were found in our Community Living Center and impacting patients. CLC staff immediately cared for the Veterans and took action to ensure no other CLC residents were impacted.”

When asked why she decided to come forward about her father’s incident, Ross said she hopes to prevent a similar incident in the future. “I want to spread awareness. Do we understand the magnitude of how busy the VA is, the number of patients they have? I know the staff, without a shadow of a doubt, respected my dad and even loved him. But what’s their ability to assess situations and fix things? I understand mistakes happen. I’ve had ants. But he was bitten by ants two days in a row. They feasted on him,” she said.


Vietnam vet bitten 100 times by ants who ‘feasted on him’ before his death at VA hospital, daughter says

‘They feasted on him’: Ants at VA nursing home bit a veteran 100 times before his death, daughter says

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