Special Report: Veteran battles VA for 9 years

A Eugene veteran is wasting away and he's only 29 years old. He has a rare condition that makes it extremely painful to eat. He's still waiting on the VA to help save his life.

Posted: Dec 13, 2018 8:31 PM
Updated: Dec 17, 2018 12:57 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- A Eugene veteran is wasting away, and he's only 29 years old. Nine year's later, he's still waiting on Veterans Affairs to help save his life.

Brandon Donovan has dropped around 50 pounds since 2009. He has a rare condition that makes it extremely painful to eat.

"How the pain is, is like swallowing cement and it's hardening in your stomach," Donovan said.

The pain started during his deployment in Iraq, Donovan said. Since then, it's been appointment after appointment and procedure after procedure with no answers.

Donovan and his wife, Jennifer, started digging through his VA medical notes and found the first suspicion of a rare condition in 2014; it's called MALS, or celiac artery compression syndrome. Four years later, MALS suspicion came up again.

This past October, a physician with Oregon Health & Science University recommended MALS treatment.

"Find out all these years later that he's been suffering when it could've been looked into back then, like, my mouth dropped when I saw that," Jennifer Donovan said. "I was livid."

MALS is often misdiagnosed, according to the National Institutes of Health. Researchers report that about 10 to 24 percent of the general population have MALS. Those researchers also say only a few of these patients suffer abdominal pain.

That October an OHSU letter referred Donovan to a specialist in Connecticut, a physician outside the VA. On Nov. 29, he got a letter showing the VA denied that treatment request, and Donovan said it's not the first denial.

KEZI 9 News first reached out to the Roseburg VA on Dec. 5. A week later, we received an email resonse from interim director David Whitmer.

"We have determined that a referral to a specialist outside of the VA can be authorized; we are currently making arrangements to do so," Whitmer wrote.

This comes after Senator Ron Wyden's office got involved. The senator's office wouldn't schedule an on-camera interview with us but said Brandon Donovan's case has led them to look deeper into the VA and how Donovan has waited nine years for a diagnosis and surgery.

Stay with KEZI 9 News for the latest in Donovan's case.

In the meantime, to learn more about his story, click here

The Donovan family has also set up a fundraiser if you would like to help. You can do so by clicking here.

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