It was not the way a U.S. veteran should leave this world. Joel Marrable, 74, served his country in the Air Force and fought in Viet Nam. He ended his days in the Eagle’s Nest Community Center, a veterans’ nursing home on the campus of the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
Marrable had resided at Eagle’s Nest for the past 14 months while undergoing treatment. While cancer was the cause of his death, more than 100 ant bites on his body likely impacted his compromised immune system, hastening his demise.
Staff Thought He Was Dead
When staff members first saw Marrable covered with ants, they assumed he had died. That’s what staff told Marrable’s daughter, Laquna Ross. Marrable was still alive, but his daughter says she had ant bites on his stomach, hands and other body parts. Ross says the ants were everywhere, including the bed, ceiling, and walls. They were also in his feeding tube and diaper. Employees bathed her father, and the room cleaned, but the next day the ant problem was just as bad. Marrable was placed in a new room, where he died just hours later.
It wasn’t until September 9 – two days after Marrable did succumb –that the VA had pest control experts assess the issue. Since then, all of the bedrooms in the facility have been stripped, cleaned, and professionally inspected, with ongoing monitoring. In addition, all open food containers were removed, and the VA is providing plastic containers in which residents can store their snacks.
Feasting on Him
Ross says she understands that an ant infestation can happen, but notes the insects “feasted on him” for two days in a row. She took photos of the bites on her father’s body. Ross says her dad “deserved better” than he got during his final days, and questions the ability of the VA to handle its nursing home patients.
She says her father had made his peace with death and fulfilled some items on his bucket list. He surely had no idea his last days on earth would consist of becoming insect fodder.
While employees told Ross they did everything they could to get the ants off him once the discovery was made, this just opens up more questions about the incident. Just how long was this dying man left in his bed, covered in ants? Why didn’t staff members seek out the source of the ants? Why did the VA leave Marrable in the same room after the infestation?
The following day, Marrable was again covered in ants. Did any staff members check on his condition during the night?
Georgia Senator Responds
Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, who recently announced his retirement from the Senate due to his own health issues, said he was “shocked, horrified and downright maddened,” by conditions at the Atlanta VA, and that a veteran was treated so badly.
The Atlanta VA has apologized to Marrable’s family and vows a “top to bottom” investigation.
If you or a loved one died or suffered a serious injury from a fall, abuse or neglect at an assisted living facility, call us. Our experienced team and national network of assisted living facility neglect lawyers can help. For more information, contact us online or by phone at 833.201.1555. You can also visit our nursing home abuse page.