Veteran impacted by COVID-19 surgery delays

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A decorated Army veteran, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, is one of the countless people who need surgery right now but can’t get it.

“I can be angry but there’s nothing I can do to change it,” said Teresa Honstead. “It is frustrating.”

On March 23 state officials requested “all elective and non-urgent surgeries and procedures” be suspended statewide. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines “essential” as any surgery or procedure that, if not done in the next four weeks, would cause harm to the patient.

Honstead’s surgery to repair her knee is now on hold indefinitely. She wishes it had been done months ago and blames the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“The VA they’re not providing the care that they promised veterans when we come home,” she said.

Honstead tore her ACL and meniscus, according to medical records. She says the injury occurred at her home last July. She says she went to the Fayetteville VA Medical Center in Fayetteville where she was just told to ice it.

“[The provider] looked at it and just said, ‘I think it’s sprained,’” said Honstead. “It was the end of her shift. I felt like I wasn’t even really important. All she wanted to do was go home.”

It took three months for her to get an X-ray or MRI, she said. The results, reported on Oct. 21 by Atrium Health Anson, found a “near complete tear” of her ACL. Six months after the injury occurred, she says the VA finally referred her for surgery.

She says she was in pain and had trouble putting weight on her foot.

“It angers me,” she said. “I just want to be whole. I shouldn’t have to beg the VA for that…I feel like I’ve had to fight to get the care that I need.”

The VA referred her to OrthoCarolina for surgery, Honstead said, which was supposed to happen in April. It has now been postponed due to COVID-19. She feels if the VA had referred her for surgery sooner, she could be recovering right now instead of it being “up in the air.”

“Do you feel like your surgery should be considered essential?,” asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.

“From the walking aspect of it, yes,” said Honstead. “You don’t realize how much you use your leg until you don’t have the full function of your leg.’

OrthoCarolina did not respond to a request for comment.

FOX 46 reached out to the VA. A spokesperson says they are actively looking into the matter.

It is unclear how many surgeries have been postponed due the pandemic.

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