After years of pain and mismanaged health care, a Luzerne County man said he will at least be able to pay his bills for the rest of his life.
James Marinello, of South Main Road, Mountaintop, was awarded $3.523 million in his lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Wilkes-Barre medical center. Lawyers for the 71-year-old man filed a suit against the VA hospital and its staff for “carelessness and negligence.”
Marinello was admitted to the hospital in April with bronchitis and left five months later a double amputee.
Federal court Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie moved his courtroom to the Smith Nursing Home in Wright Twp. to deliver his judgment personally to Marinello.
In spite of the settlement, the old man cried often as the judge read off each point of evidence that led to the judgment.
“I was” Jimmy the Fish.” I used to hunt and fish all the time,” Marinello said. “Now I’m in pain. Everything hurts. This is no way to live.”
Marinello’s daughter, Florence Citsay, and three granddaughters, Jessica, Michelle and Florence, cried along with him as Vanaskie described his life before entering the VA hospital for a bout with bronchitis.
“It’ll be OK, grandpa,” 17-year-old Jessica said, patting Marinello on the shoulder. “We’ll make it OK.”
Marinello has been on veterans’ disability since his honorable discharge from the U.S. Army with paranoid schizophrenia. Marinello was admitted to Wilkes-Barre medical center with symptoms of acute bronchitis. Nearly eight weeks later, while recuperating, Marinello took a wrong turn during the night on his way to the men’s room and entered a hospital room being used to store old bedsprings.
He is considered legally blind, a result of suffering from diabetes for nearly a decade.
Marinello fell on the springs in the dark, injured his foot and spent nearly half an hour there until help arrived.
He developed a staph infection and gangrene, and in June, doctors removed his left leg above the knee. Later, after a fall, the stump would not heal, and doctors removed more of the leg.
Marinello later developed a bed sore on his right heel. The infection spread, and physicians removed that leg, also above the knee.
Vanaskie said evidence showed that, prior to entering the hospital, Marinello lived in the Simonitis personal Care Home, Nanticoke, where he was able to take care of himself. He also took daily walks on land surroundings the home.
Since his release from the VA facility, Marinello is confined to a wheelchair, must wear a catheter for the rest of his life and relies on the help of two people and a Heuer lift to move from place to place. He cannot even turn himself over in bed.
Vanaskie apologized for the monetary award.
“I know no amount of money can make up for the pain and suffering this man has been through. It cannot make up for the loss of quality of life,” he said.
Marinello cried after the judgment was pronounced.
“The money will just about pay the bills for the rest of my life,” he said. “But I still have my family.” Florence Citsay said she plans to take care of her father from now on.
We’re grateful for the judgment,” Citsay said. But no amount of money can make my father’s life right. We’ll just try to make him happy.”
Citsay said she hopes the judgment in his case will prompt others to sue the Veterans Administration for negligence in its medical facilities.
There was a lot of patients suffering there. We saw them almost daily when we visited my father,” she said. “I believe the VA knew from the beginning what was going on.”
Citsay said she plans to take her father into her home.
“We don’t know when it will be,” she said. “We have to wait for the doctors to check him out. We have to wait until it’s absolutely right.”
THE TRIBUNE – SCRANTON, PA
By GINA THACKARA Staff Writer