Green Beret in a fight for his life after 'gross negligence and malpractice' at Army hospital

Matt Saintsing
November 08, 2018 - 3:59 pm

Photo Courtesy of Megan Stayskal

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Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal took a bullet in his left lung from a Dragunov sniper rifle in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004. But that wasn’t the end of his breathing issues; last year the 37-year-old Green Beret took an ambulance ride to an Army hospital, received a CT scan, and was sent on his way. 

But just a few months later, he learned from a civilian doctor he had aggressive lung cancer, a diagnosis, Stayskal says, was botched by Army physicians. 

“They knew about it, somebody saw it, and nobody told me,” he tells Connecting Vets. 

Now the father of two is terminally ill with stage four cancer, with tumors spreading to his spleen and neck. 

Photo Courtesy of Megan Stayskal

Stayskal’s breathing issues started in January 2017. Intense chest pain was coupled with sensations of drowning whenever laying on his back, as blood filled his lungs. 

He sought medical treatment at the Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, where physicians examined him, took scans and sent him home. 

But his condition only worsened. 

In May of last year, Stayskal was rushed to the same hospital on Bragg. But instead of being sent away, doctors there decided to take a second glance at the CT scan just a few months earlier. His medical records noted masses and other abnormalities, but strangely, neither he nor his wife Megan was told any of that. 

Stayskal saw a civilian doctor in June, who ordered a biopsy. 

“When I woke up, I saw my wife crying with the doctor explaining that I had cancer,” he says. 

Following his life-shattering diagnosis, Stayskal sought legal counsel by Tampa, Fla attorney Natalie Khawam, of the Whistleblower Law Firm, who is seeking a 10 million suit against the government for medical malpractice, according to Fox 46.

“It was completely obvious,” Dr. Louis Leskosky, a board-certified radiologist hired by the law firm, tells Fox 46. “I can’t fathom how any experienced radiologist missed this case….If I were testifying in court, I would call it a case of gross malpractice.” 

Despite the sloppy diagnosis, and alleged negligence and malpractice, Stayskal will most likely not have his day in court. That’s because according to the 1950 Supreme Court decision known as the “Feres Doctrine,” active duty troops are barred from suing the federal government for any ailment stemming from military service. 

Photo Courtesy of Megan Stayskal

Civilians, on the other hand, are more than welcome to seek legal damages for medical malpractice.  

“Reversal of the Feres Doctrine would destroy the premise of the no-fault compensation system currently applicable to all workers’ compensation programs, including military compensation programs,” Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Carla Gleason told Fox 46. 

But Khawam, says Stayskal case is outside the realm of normal workers’ compensation cases. 

Where it stands now, Stayskal is receiving treatment off-post in North Carolina. He says the chemo-therapy pills he’s taking “work okay,” but doctors told him overtime the cancer will become resistant to new medicines. 

His wife, Megan, tells Connecting Vets the whole situation is “completely unfair” to her husband, and especially their daughters, who are ages 11 and 9. 

“We’re all human, and mistakes are made, human error happens, but the fact was it was noted, and people signed off on it and said he was fine,” she says. 

“I feel for my kids, they love their dad.” 

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