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General News

Army Veteran Found Wandering in Cold, Could Lose Foot

NEW YORK – Army veteran George Yacobellis, 76, was found wandering outside the Hilaire Rehabilitation & Nursing home in Huntington, NY, on a frigid night just weeks after he was transferred to the facility from the Northport VA Medical Center and might now “lose his left foot to frostbite,” the New York Post reported on February 3.

Yacobellis’ “outraged” family “wants answers after their ‘disoriented’ loved one was recently found wandering outside a Long Island nursing home in arctic temperatures,” the Post reported.

“We want answers. The nursing home was negligent, uncaring. There was a dereliction of duty. I’m so upset,” Yacobellis’ sister, Mary Zeiss, 77, told the Post.

“Yacobellis was moved to Hilaire — a 76-bed facility — on Jan. 15 following his discharge from the Northport VA Medical Center for pancreatitis and a broken foot, the family said,” the Post reported, adding that “while at the veterans’ hospital, the dementia patient was closely supervised in a lockdown unit, said Zeiss, a former nurse.”

“Six days after he arrived, at around 4 AM, Jan. 21, the ‘combative’ vet was found ‘wandering near the front door’ outside the facility, according to Zeiss and medical records obtained by the Post,” the report continued.

“I yelled for assistance and staff came outside and assisted him back inside facility,” a nursing home employee wrote, according to the document, the Post reported, noting that “Yacobellis was looking for his sister,” the document said.

“A registered nurse assessment noted the vet had a ‘small skin tear to left inner hand and a skin tear to left toe,’ which was cleansed with Neosporin and bacitracin ointment, the medical paper said,” the Post reported, adding that “the sibling went to the nursing home the next morning to pick up her brother and take him to Northport VA to have the cast of his broken foot checked, only to be ‘horrified’ to discover his left foot was frostbitten.”

Zeiss demanded an explanation for the frostbitten foot and was told “they didn’t know” what had happened, the Post reported, noting that “the family — who said the vet was outside with bare toes on the foot with the cast — yanked Yacobellis out of Hilaire that day, bringing him home to West Islip.”

“The next day, he started running temperatures, so I brought him back to the VA, where he is now,” Zeiss told the Post. “He could have died. His fingers are still hurting him. He has lost a lot of sensation. We will find out Monday if the foot has to be amputated.”

According to weather records, the temperatures on Jan. 21 were below freezing on Long Island.

“In the meantime, the sister said there had been an explanation ‘blackout’ on the part of Hilaire,” the Post reported, adding that “attorney Joseph Campisi, who is pondering a lawsuit, said the family ‘wants answers’ on how Yacobellis was allowed to leave the facility.”

“There is no dispute — verified by their own records — that George got out of the nursing home, unsupervised and into the cold,” Campisi told the Post.

“Doctors at the VA hospital diagnosed Yacobellis with frostbite, Zeiss and Campisi said,” the Post reported, noting that “Yacobellis served during the Vietnam War as a truck driver in Germany.”

“The family wants to know how George wound up getting frostbite when he was entrusted in the care of this nursing home,” the attorney told the Post, adding that “they haven’t provided any answers.”

“The family received the medical notes on Thursday [Feb. 1] from Hilaire and turned them over to their lawyer on Friday [Feb. 2],” the Post reported.

“How does a 76-year-old man whose on a locked unit with a cast get out in the middle of the night when it’s [14] degrees and develop frostbite?” asked Zeiss’ daughter Diane Adamson, the Post reported.

“Hilaire nursing home is run by the federal government, which also runs Northport VA Hospital, but the family has been satisfied with the care Yacobellis has received at the latter facility,” the Post reported.

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