(NEW YORK) — For six months, Mark Templin, a Vietnam-era Air Force veteran from Helena, Mont., prepared to die.
The retired 78-year-old checked himself into the Fort Harrison VA Medical Center in 2009 after suffering chest pains. Templin remembers little of the weekend, except the dire diagnosis before his release: He was told he had a terminal brain tumor.
“They put a stent in and when I woke up on Monday, they told me there was something wrong with me,” Templin, who worked for 18 years for railroad companies, told ABC News. “I went home and made my funeral arrangements because I was told I didn’t have much time to live. …I cried a lot.”
Were it not for his son — who stopped Templin from killing himself with his gun — and the concern of a hospice nurse who took him back to the VA for a reevaluation, he would never have learned that doctors had misdiagnosed him.
Now, Templin, who in reality had a series of small strokes, has won a $59,820 lawsuit against the Fort Hamilton VA. He was awarded $500 per day for the initial period of severe mental and emotional distress and then $300 per day until his revised diagnosis, according to court papers.
Just this week, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy wrote that the family’s distress was caused by internist Dr. Patrick Morrow and his “negligent failure to meet the standard of care.”
“It is difficult to put a price tag on the anguish of a man wrongly convinced of his impending death,” Molloy wrote. “Mr. Templin lived for 148 days…under the mistaken impression that he was dying of metastatic brain cancer.”
While thinking he was dying, Templin quit his part-time job, sold his truck and signed a “do not resuscitate” order, which he posted to the refrigerator. He pre-paid his funeral and his son-in-law built a wooden box for his ashes. His family, wife Marion and four grown children, even gave him a “last birthday” dinner.
The court additionally ordered the VA to reimburse Templin for those expenses.
“I didn’t want to do it,” Templin said of the lawsuit. “I was a veteran and I love those guys up there. But the way they treated me…I asked them for an apology and they wouldn’t give it. That really got me mad. I wondered how many go through this. I don’t want to see anyone go through this.”
Templin’s lawyer, Dan Buckley told ABC News, “It was a long battle and good to see that at the end of the day, justice was done.”
U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr told ABC News that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Billings, Mont., did not have any comment on the judgment. She said the VA has 30 days to decide whether to file an appeal.
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