Retired Army veteran says son denied medevac to Hawaii

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Guam – Walter Duenas is a retired Army veteran whose son is currently in need of emergency surgery for his distended or bloated stomach. Duenas says Naval Hospital Guam has refused to medevac his son to Hawaii because of a new policy.

“We can’t wait; his belly will pop. He’s in so much pain right now that he’s been moaning and screaming all night that they had to give him some pain medicine just to calm him down,” said Duenas.

Duenas is afraid his son could die from his severely distended stomach: a problem he is prone to because of conditions he was born with.

“Wednesday February 14, he came home from school because his girth was not normal. It was 69 centimeters. So, I took him to the emergency room and they measured him, and they said okay we’ll keep him overnight and try to get his belly down and see what we could do,” said Duenas.

His condition worsened; his pain increased.  So Duenas says he asked Naval Hospital officials to have his son medevacked to the Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii.  The facility has specialists who were familiar with both Robert and his condition. Robert has been medevacked to Trippler in the past for the same symptoms.

“Now his belly has been getting bigger and bigger every day. I keep reminding them we need a medevac. Then they found out today that they couldn’t medevac him because they cannot classify him as an emergency evac patient,” said Duenas.

Duenas says he was told that his son didn’t qualify for the immediate medevac to Hawaii due to a new policy that he’s not very familiar with.

“Because of the changes that the Air Force has done under TMPC standards, Robert is no longer classified as an emergency patient that needs to be medevacked to Hawaii so now instead of moving Robert to Hawaii in desperate need to get surgery done because of his distention of his belly which is at critical right now at 75 centimeters. They want us to go enroute to Okinawa as a regular medevac patient. Fly to Okinawa, stay there until Friday, and then fly to Hawaii. Now come on guys. We already know Robert’s at critical so why do we have to wait that long and why can’t you put in orders for him to be an emergency evac patient, so we could get him to the specialist in Hawaii where they could do the surgery?”

Instead they told him they could send Robert to the Guam Regional Medical City where they found a doctor who was able and willing to do the surgery to lower the swelling in Robert’s belly.

“If this doctor didn’t agree to it then they would’ve never found one and then what,” Duenas asked.

Although Duenas is happy that the doctor here on Guam is willing to do surgery on his son he is a bit concerned because the doctor is not a specialist. The specialists are in Hawaii and Duenas, who is a retired army veteran, doesn’t understand why the medevac to Hawaii was denied.

“We defended this country and we went over there and fought like everybody else and those benefits are there for us so why are you arguing with us why don’t you just let us use those benefits and get our family treated,” asked Duenas.  “Before you make the regulations you should think of the family members of active duty and retired personnel as well not just active duty personnel.  They’re forgetting about us and they’re not treating us like we should be treated as veterans and as retirees.”

Naval Hospital Public Affairs Officer Jaciyn Matanane says Robert was treated at the Naval Hospital and his condition improved at first, but it then began to deteriorate. Since the Naval Hospital does not have a pediatric surgeon, Naval Hospital reached out to GRMC, their Tri-Care partner that had a pediatric surgeon capable of operating on Robert. Matanane says Robert’s father was consulted throughout the entire transfer process and agreed to it. Matanane says she did not have information on the new policy that Duenas says prevented the medevac.