VA denies Army veteran local heart transplant as he fights for his life

A veteran is fighting for his life after being told by Veterans Affairs that he can not get a transplant locally. Doctors say he is living on borrowed time but he hopes something can be done.

SEGUIN - A veteran is fighting for his life after being told by the VA that he can't get a heart transplant locally. Doctors say he's living on borrowed time.

Veterans Affairs has a policy that states that transplant services must take place at a VA approved transplant program. There is a handful across the country, but there are no heart transplant locations in Texas.

The policy also states that the patient must bring a caregiver with them for at least six months. David Conklin, an Army veteran living in Seguin, said his whole family and support system live in Texas.

The 36-year-old veteran deployed to Iraq working as military police but today he's fighting for his life.

"In the last what week or so I've blacked out twice just walking from my room to the kitchen so I mean it sucks," he said.

Conklin has end stage heart failure. His heart is not pumping very efficiently causing blood to go into other organs like his lungs which make it difficult to breathe. He lives on constant IV medication to sustain a normal blood pressure and has a defibrillator to monitor his heart beat.

Doctors said Conklin needs a ventricle assist device to be installed which would then make him eligible for a transplant. While a doctor at Methodist Hospital in San Antonio is willing to do the operations, the VA won't provide the funding because their policy states the operation has to take place at a VA approved transplant program.

"I've been asked this before, 'how many people nationwide do I think have died because of these issues?' and I think the number is in the thousands," said Jamie McBride, the program manager for transplants for the South Texas VA Healthcare System.

Conklin has been told for two years that he's only had months to live. He's hoping that whatever miracle that's kept him alive will continue, for the sake of his sons.

"I don't have a choice but to keep going because they need their dad," he said.

The VA said they're looking into Conklin's case.

In a statement, they said: "VA has authority to refer Veterans for transplant care in the community if the VA Transplant Program is not accessible due to urgency of the services required or if a VA transplant center cannot provide the medically necessary services required given unique circumstances."

© 2017 KENS-TV


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