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Ken Schram says he almost died in a VA hospital

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When KIRO Radio’s Ken Schram read a recent report about the state of veterans affairs hospitals in the Puget Sound area, it brought back horrible memories of his life-threatening experience. And the veteran journalist says he’s disappointed that in nearly 45 years, it appears not much has changed in the way of safety.

The VA Puget Sound Health Care System mostly trailed the top performers in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care network in evaluations for overall quality of care over the past year-and-a-half, reported The Seattle Times.

Ken Schram said on KIRO Radio’s Andrew Walsh Show he nearly died decades ago in surgery at a VA hospital.

He thinks it was about 1975 when he, working without medical coverage, needed surgery for kidney issues. From what Schram knows, the urologist that was assigned to him at the VA hospital failed to properly tie his renal artery, and he bled out on the table.

“I wound up having to receive 17 pints of blood and everybody thought I was going to die.”

During the procedure, the doctors needed to bring him back to a certain amount of consciousness. He was still in surgery, but he couldn’t feel any of the pain. In disbelief that he was on the operating table and awake, he tried to tell the doctors he could hear them.

“I could hear voices but I couldn’t understand what they were saying,” recalled Schram. “Someone lifted my eyelid and I saw them and the next thing I know, I woke up in intensive care.”

Schram credits his survival not to his original urologist, but to a another doctor brought in from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

The doctor said Schram was tough, he had the will to live, and he was too young to die.

When he first started having medical issues, Schram was hesitant to visit a veteran’s hospital because they had such terrible reputations, but he said he had little choice.

“One would think that in 45 years, the VA would have caught up with itself,” Schram said. “The report (…) illustrates how poorly we treat our veterans.”

The Puget Sound VA received some of the worst scores in a measurement of how many patients die in the hospital while receiving acute care. It often had a mortality ratio more than twice that of facilities that received five stars.

“We send (U.S. soldiers) over to put them in harm’s way, to face death, to face maiming, to face dismemberment, to face PTSD,” said Schram. “We ask huge amounts of dedication from them and then we drop the ball when it comes to taking care of them in the aftermath.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

About the Author

Alyssa Kleven

Alyssa Kleven is an editor and content producer at She enjoys doting over her adorable dachshund Winnie - named for Arcade Fire front-man Win Butler.


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