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$8.3 Million Award Against VA Med Center

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal judge awarded $8.3 million to an Army veteran who suffered brain damage and lost a leg after a cardiac stent insertion at the John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.

Dirk Askew had a stent inserted at Cochran in February 2009.

Askew, then 43, developed swelling and bleeding at the surgical site on his upper right thigh, was readmitted to Cochran a week later and diagnosed with an infection.

Askew claimed in his lawsuit that surgeons used infected tissue to patch the artery and that the medical team's negligence led to significant blood loss that caused his brain injury. His infected right leg became gangrenous and had to be amputated.

Askew, a father of three, is paralyzed and mostly non-communicative, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey awarded $6.8 million to Askew and $1.5 million to his wife and primary caregiver Beulah, after a two-day trial.

"She did quite a good job of raising her kids," the Askews' attorney, David Damick, told the Post-Dispatch. "She is now raising a child, who is her husband, who will never grow up."

The Cochran VA Medical Center has faced a litany of care-related issues.

A Florida man has an ongoing lawsuit against Cochran, claiming he underwent unnecessary radiation after being misdiagnosed with cancer.

A nurse was banned from treating patients at Cochran in 2010 after it was found that she committed several acts that caused the death or near death of patients.

More than 1,800 veterans were notified in 2010 that they might have been exposed to HIV or hepatitis due to improper sterilization methods at the hospital.

Cochran shut down its operating rooms in February 2011 when rust stains were found on surgical equipment. The rooms reopened a month later after the equipment was replaced and the rooms cleaned.

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