WILKES-BARRE — A death sentence.
That’s what Michael Keslosky III says the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center gave him by botching a prostate cancer diagnosis, leading the Old Forge man to develop terminal, Stage IV cancer, which has spread to his bones.
Keslosky, 58, also admits he may not live long enough to see the outcome of a $4 million medical malpractice claim he has filed against the facility, but hopes his case will draw attention to the level of care provided to other veterans.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” Keslosky said. “This is not about Michael Keslosky. It’s been about all the veterans.”
Efforts to reach Keslosky’s attorney, Scott E. Schermerhorn, on Tuesday were not successful.
Jason Cave, acting public affairs director at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center, said he could not comment on the case, but that VA officials are committed to providing excellent care and encourage patients with issues or concerns to come forward for assistance.
Keslosky is a suspended Old Forge Borough police officer who served in the National Guard for about 12 years prior to his discharge in 2004. He also has been involved as an activist in veterans’ issues locally.
He lost his health insurance when he was suspended without pay in 2005.
According to the lawsuit, Keslosky began receiving treatment at the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center in 2006. Keslosky said he was initially reluctant to receive treatment there due to stories he had heard from other veterans.
Staff at the VA allegedly told Keslosky he was suffering from prostatitis for years, treating him with antibiotics and hormone therapy.
Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate.
Keslosky alleges that VA staff intentionally misled him to believe he suffered from prostatitis while ignoring signs that he actually was suffering from prostate cancer.
But it wasn’t until recently that Keslosky learned of the severity of his disease — not from doctors, but in a letter from a congressman.
His stunned reaction: “Oh my god, what’s going on here?”
Keslosky and Schermerhorn received a letter from U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright in response to a congressional inquiry related to Keslosky’s complaints about his health care. That letter indicated that Keslosky had Stage IV prostate cancer that had spread to the bones. The letter also stated that a high risk nurse manager became involved in Keslosky’s care.
That contrasts with allegations made by Keslosky.
“At no time from January 10, 2011 to the date of the VA letter of July 26, 2013 did the VA inform Mr. Keslosky that he was diagnosed with Stage IV prostate cancer,” the lawsuit states. It went on to state that a high risk nurse was never assigned to Keslosky’s case.
Keslosky says he requested several times to have his prostate removed, a request that was denied by the VA.
The complaint states that Keslosky was informed that the Da Vinci device used in the surgeries was not used in the VA system — a claim that the lawsuit disputes, saying it was located at the Pittsburgh VA Medical Center.
The medical malpractice claim was filed through the Federal Torts Claims Act. The VA now has six months to review the claim to determine if it will pay the requested damages — if not, Keslosky can then file a federal lawsuit.
The lawsuit lists Keslosky’s sustained injuries as, Stage IV prostate cancer with metastasis into the skeletal structures/bones, pain and suffering and future medical care.
Keslosky said the first thing he would do if he wins the lawsuit is seek the proper medical attention to continue fighting his cancer.
But either way, the issue is bigger than his case or figures on a page: Keslosky just wants to draw attention to cases similar to his where veterans don’t get the medical attention they need.
In the meanwhile, Keslosky said he is not sure how long he has to live, but he is on four different medications and receiving hormone treatment.
“I feel great,” Keslosky said. “My doctors are amazed that I don’t have any bone pain or any bone difficulties.”