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Retired Soldier Fights VA for Caregiver Benefits After Botched Surgeries Left her Partially Paralyzed

— August 29, 2019

The family of Barbara Ospina, a retired army veteran, is fighting with the VA for caregiver benefits after a botched surgery left her disabled.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is in hot water over a lawsuit filed by an Army veteran, retired Sgt. First Class Barbara Ospina. According to her suit, military doctors at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in southwest Ohio “caused her to have a stroke and dislocated her neck is being forced to fight the VA in court to cover the treatments she now needs.” Since the surgery, Ospina now spends most of her days confined to a wheelchair in pain, all because doctors botched a procedure to treat a totally treatable condition.

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

When commenting on the unfortunate incident, Ospina’s attorney, Natalie Khawam said, “Her story represents the egregious conduct, consistent lack of care and malpractice at the hands of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”

Before the botched surgery, Ospina began getting headaches in early 2013, along with numbness and tingling in her limbs and blurred vision. After being checked out, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Arnold Chiari malformation, a deformity that causes the “skull to push the brain down into the spinal column.” As a result, Ospina’s family took her to Wright Patt on April 16, 2013, for corrective surgery. Though instead of fixing the problem, the VA doctors nearly killed her, according to the allegations.

When the procedure was complete, Ospina was diagnosed with a “paralyzed cranial nerve that left her blind in her left eye, which was swollen shut. To make matters worse, as her recovery progressed, her “head was also left-leaning toward her left shoulder.

However, things only got worse from there. As part of her recovery, Ospina had to undergo an MRI to check her brain. However, during the MRI she was “told to lay flat without oxygen for an hour even though the married mom was crying and telling the medical staff she needed the oxygen to breathe.” Soon after the MRI, Ospina was put on a ventilator to help her breathe, “which kept her from eating on her own or talking for a month.”

When responding to the allegations detailed out in the suit, the VA pushed back and said Ospina’s condition “was caused by the Chiari malformation rather than an injury caused by her doctors,” according to an appeal letter her husband wrote when she was denied caregiver benefits.

Khawam pushed back, though, and said:

Her current condition is due to injuries sustained from medical malpractice that occurred by a military neurosurgeon, military nurses, and the overall horrible care she received at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”

Then, on April 21, Ospina’s family was notified that she had suffered a stroke, which allegedly “went undetected for more than a day even though she was supposed to be receiving hourly neuro checks.” According to the appeal letter, those strokes led to Ospina’s brain damage.

Eventually, she was transferred to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio to undergo a surgery to relieve pressure on her swelling brain. As part of the surgery, part of her skull was removed. Two months later, her family took her to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago in June 2014. It was there that the family was informed by a surgeon that the “surgery she’d received at Wright Patt had dislocated her neck,” according to Khawam. Additionally, the surgeon said he “believed Ospina’s stroke was the result of her neck getting dislocated, theorizing that the trauma had created a tear in the inner lining of her vertebral artery, where he said a clot formed and blocked blood flow to her brain.”

As a result of her ordeal, Ospina officially retired from the Army in July 2016 when a line-of-duty investigation concluded she had been permanently disabled by her medical condition. However, the VA has so far denied her access to a caregiver program that would have “provided up to $30,000 a year for a family member to take care of Ospina on a full-time basis.”


Ex-Army sergeant, 29, who claims botched surgery by the military almost killed her and left her paralyzed, reveals SHE has to pay for round-the-clock care because the VA says she wasn’t injured while on duty

Unable to sue the Army for medical malpractice, this retired soldier is now fighting the VA for benefits

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