Good news about Dennis Haines… finally!
Last week, I wrote about Vietnam Vet. Dennis Haines’s difficulty in getting a medication approved by the V.A. for treatment for Hepatitis C – an infectious disease that he contracted after he had unintentionally received tainted blood while being treated by the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh.
One week ago, I had contacted Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey’s office and asked for help on behalf of Haines. During the follow-up process, I spoke with Lauren Sanchez, Sen. Toomey’s constituent representative in Allentown, PA – the office that was handling Dennis’s case. Sanchez said that she had been in touch with Haines and had sent him a privacy statement and that she would follow up. Due to privacy, however, she could not share any details with me.
“Understand,” I said. “Just get Dennis the help he needs ASAP. He’s in stage-4 liver disease.”
On Thursday (May 5), I received this message from John Baldwin, Haines’s original Vietnam surgeon who literally saved his life.
“John, Just got a call from Inga [at] the pharmacy.
“She put the Harvoni prescription [the best treatment for Hep. C] through and the pharmacy will be calling me to pick it up, which should be today or tomorrow.
“Finally, things are moving forward and I should have the medicine real soon! The only thing that could hold it up a day is if the pharmacy has none on the shelf. If that’s the case it would only take an additional day. Waiting on the next phone call now, and will be at the V.A. volunteering tomorrow and Monday. I should be there to get it right away.”
Yes, you read that last part right!
In spite of his delayed treatment schedule; in spite of the phone calls and follow-ups, Dennis still manages to volunteer to help others at the office that put his life at risk.
Another message from Baldwin confirmed that Dennis has received the medication and is currently being treated.
“On May 5, 2016 Dennis Haines received the RX for Harvoni and secured the medication and will receive his first treatment on May 6.
“He will follow-up with Senator Toomey’s office in an effort to help other veterans who are in the same situation… This treatment should CURE this disease,” Baldwin writes, “which has ravished Sgt. Haines for nearly 40 years, damaging his liver and requiring difficult and brutal chemotherapy which was ‘all we had’ until this breakthrough.”
Yesterday, May 8, Haines contacted Baldwin.
“John, I picked up the medicine first thing Friday morning. I started taking it yesterday and today for the second time. So far everything is going well! I really hope this one works! I hope you are both having a nice Mother’s Day.
“Take care, Dennis”
I intend to write a letter of thanks to Senator Toomey’s D.C. office as well as his representative in the Allentown office.
In 2004, Dennis Haines was nominated for an “Images of Bravery Award.” This national award was presented to him by the California Vietnam Veterans Officers later that same year. Part of his story reads as follows:
“Dennis was eighteen, had finished high school and was working on an Associate degree in Architectural Engineering when he was drafted in October 1967.
“On the night of December 6, 1968, as an E-4, he was leading his squad toward a suspected VC-occupied village. Two AK-47 rounds struck and blew away the right side of his head, and he was quickly brought to the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh, where Drs. John Baldwin (a sponsor) and Floyd Robinson operated on his brain. After a stormy post-operative week, it was apparent he would live, and he followed the usual disability.
“Further surgery to place a plate in his skull and two more years of intense rehabilitation followed, but despite this, Dennis has essentially no use of his left leg or arm, and stands only for important events with the aide of a locking steel brace. He is unable to drive even ‘a handicapped equipped’ vehicle, so that all transportation must be public or from loving friends and family.”
While I am pleased to hear that Dennis has finally received the treatment he so urgently needed, I kept thinking, how many others? How many more veterans are facing similar delays?
“Americans should never rest on one man’s victory,” Baldwin wrote me, “but continue to insist that procrastination, and delay to save money and go home early at the V.A. SHOULD NEVER be acceptable practice.”