Wife Of Man Who Died At Claremore VA Looks To Change System

Wednesday, October 3rd 2012, 10:59 pm
By: News On 6

The widow of a man scalded to death is on a mission to change the Veterans Affairs system in Oklahoma.

Her husband died at the Claremore Veterans Center and a follow-up inspection revealed a multitude of violations.

News On 6 first brought you the facts behind Jay Minter's death Tuesday night. On Wednesday, his widow shared what it was like to see the love of her life die at a VA home.

Frances Minter says she'll always wear her wedding ring.

"We would have been married 62 years if he had lived until June the 20th and he died on May the 3rd," said Frances.

She vows to honor her husband's memory by fighting for change.

Jay Minter was drafted into the Army at age 18. In 1945, he was sent to the Philippines and Japan, where he had to pick up dead bodies after World War II.

Eight years ago, Jay went to live at the Claremore Veterans Center. And on a daily visit to see him, Frances walked into a terrifying scene.

"My husband had his legs up in the air and he was screaming, ‘They burned my legs! They burned my legs!'"

A nurse's aide had bathed Jay in a whirlpool tub for 15 minutes when his skin started tearing and sloughing off.

"The skin was just peeling off. When you touched the skin, it would just slip right off of him," Frances said.

Jay was placed on morphine for the pain as his condition worsened.

"His last words to me was, ‘They burned my legs! They burned my legs!' which haunt me the rest of my life because he never talked to me after that," Frances said.

Ten hours after the burns, Jay's body gave up.

"I reached over and put my hand on his chest and that was the last breath he took."

An investigation revealed the thermometer was broken on the whirlpool and the water may have been as hot as 144 degrees. Frances believes the VA system has been allowed to deteriorate and the veterans are the ones getting hurt as a result.

"My attorney said to me, he said ‘You can't help your husband, he's gone. But maybe you can help other veterans so this doesn't happen again.'"

The Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which oversees the center, promises a complete overhaul.

Frances filed a tort claim and the state settled out of court for $175,000. She's going to the state capitol on Tuesday to share her story with lawmakers, since the VA issues are now under legislative review.