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Botched surgery victim gets orders back to U.S.

Nov. 1, 2012 - 05:11PM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2012 - 05:11PM  |  
John and Shelley Waldroup
John and Shelley Waldroup (Courtesy of John Waldroup)
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A captain at Yokota Air Base, Japan, who for months was denied a permanent change of station after botched knee surgery left him disabled, will finally return to the U.S.

Air Force Times first wrote about Capt. John Waldroup three weeks ago. The husband and father of two worked as a C-130 instructor navigator and air mobility liaison officer until he underwent procedures on his left knee at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii in July 2011. A surgeon accidentally severed a major artery with a surgical saw during a resection of the bone to correct an alignment.

Two weeks after the surgery, on what was supposed to be the day before he returned to Yokota, Waldroup was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, for which there is no cure. The disorder, which is little understood, made it impossible for Waldroup to walk without the aid of a cane — and then only short distances. Pain medications prevent Waldroup from driving. A return to work was out of the question.

Still, Waldroup was sent back to Yokota after two months in Hawaii even as doctors wrote in his medical record that he would not have the "necessary pain management options there."

Waldroup said the 374th Medical Group at Yokota told him he could not PCS while he awaited the outcome of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System — even though there is no policy that prevents moves for medical necessity. The medical group instead sent Waldroup and his wife, Shelley, from Yokota to the U.S. once a month for treatments. The long plane rides left Waldroup in greater pain, he said, and the couple had to hire a nanny to watch their children.

In September, another doctor urged in a letter that the Air Force move Waldroup permanently to San Antonio for proper treatment. The medical group agreed to the PCS on Oct. 12. Those orders finally came Oct. 29, one week after his story was published in the Air Force Times. The orders are to the patient squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Waldroup said in an email.

He and his family expect to leave Yokota Nov. 10.

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