I asked them to come in and my husband and daughter came downstairs. My husband had this terrible look on his face and my dughter and I didn't know what was happening.
I said, "What happened to Matt? Is he OK?" They said, "No, your son has passed away. He was found not breathing in his barracks."
That is all the information we were told. They had no explanation. I thought someone had hit me with a truck and knocked me down, all I could do is say there must be some mistake. I just talked with him the day before and he was fine.
Neither officer had any details as to what happened or why he was dead.
Before entering the service, Matt had never had any major medical problems -- no migraine headaches, just the normal kid and teenagers illnesses. After boot camp he was sent to technical school and then he requested Guam as one of his top picks. He was then transferred there for a two year stay.
After about six months, he was bitten by some kind of poisonous spider. They had to operate on his knee to remove the poison and he was hospitalized for a week. He started going to the ER everytime he got one and their protocol was Percocet and morphine shots and go back to your barracks and sleep it off. They always did the same thing.
For some time he would visit the doctor's office or the ER -- approximately 45 times to be more accurate. During that time, he was given numerous prescritions for pain. He complained about not liking to take some of them because they messed his eating and stomach up. At one pint, they admitted him to the hospital for testing to try and figure out what was happening.
One doctor did a spinal tap and Matthew had to go back to the hospital to get a blood patch where his spinal fluid was leaking and causing problems. During this time he was placed on medical hold, meaning he could not be moved to another duty station until he was better. He was referred to a neurologist in town for treatment, which meant Acupuncture. The neurologist prescribed Valium.
Even though his medical doctor on base referred him to the doctor in town, not once were records of the outcome of the appointments sent back on base.
At one point, the base doctor consulted a USN Neurologist for his opinion, and was told to abort giving Matt any morphine. Also, the medical doctor on base requested he be sent to Tripler Army base in Hawaii for treatment, but she never followed up.
When Matt would come home for a visit, he never complained of headaches. We thought they had gotten better. The last visit home was Thanksgiving 2004. He came home and surprised me the week before. He was healthy and seemed to be happy. He was excited that he was finally going to be taken off medical hold and moved to another duty station. He went back to Guam on December 10th.
I talked with him several times a week and everything seemed to be fine. On January 17th, he called and talked for a while and was again, very happy to be moving to California. According to his friend, that day he got very sick and was throwing up and complaining about a headache. She said she wanted to take him to the ER. He did not want to go because he didn't want to mess up his leaving Guam. However, she insisted and took him anyway. While he was there, he got the standard treatment. His friend said they gave him two shots in his IV and a prescription to take home. They left them back in the ER room for about two hours.
When the nurse came back by, his friend said he was complaining of blurred vision and is still not better. The nurse said, "He will feel better in a while." She then proceeded to place a pen in his hand and help him sign his name. At this point, they left the hospital.
Matthew's friend took him back to his barracks and said he could barely stay awake to eat anything. He then went to bed and she said he started snoring very loudly, which for him was unusual. She fell asleep and about 8 a.m. woke up and he was not breathing. She then called 911 and they came and tried to revive him. They took him to te hospital where he was pronounced DOA.
It took ten days for the Navy to return my son to us. They performed their autopsy and said Matt died of pneumonia.
I was told that is what they were putting on the death certificate in order to get him released. They were still waiting on toxicology reports and various other tests that would take some time to complete.
In the meantime, he was shipped home and we buried him. Several months went by and we called about every two weeks to discuss how the JAG investigations were going.
At some point, we were given another updated death certificate which stted that Matt died of an accidental overdose. As far as the Navy was concerned, he woke up in the middle of the night and took some other drugs to ease his pain and that is what caused him to die.
According to a witness who was with him all night, he never got up at all after he went to bed. During the course of the investigation there were many unanswered questions tht were left unanswered.
We were visited by some JAG investigators to interview us about Matt. Of course we had no idea what to say. We only knew what was going on over in Guam according to what Matt told us.
On September 21, 2005, we were hand delivered the complete JAG report. It contained several interviews with Matt's friends and co-workers along with doctors' reports, medical reports, etc.
The findings of the JAG report were nothing but a lot of procedural changes along with a few disciplinary actions on some of the medical personnel involved with Matt. When I requested information as to when those actions were to be taken, I was told that was strictly information for the Navy and not for me.
I still think that there are many pieces of the puzzle still missing. I am not sure who is responsible for my son's death, and I am not sure I will ever know. I do know that there are doctors practicing medicine on young boys and men in the service who are not held accountable for anything, which I think is an atrocity. I never knew what the Feres Doctrine was until this happened to us. I am sure there are many Americans who have never heard of it.
We are currently still waiting for the NCIS Investigation to be completed. It has now been three years and I really don't know much more than I knew on the night I was told about Matt's death, except there were lots of medical mistakes made during his time in the Military. He was given a lot of drugs that he should not have been given. He was a good sone and I would have given my life for him to still be here.
Mary Ann White, mother of Matthew Brandt.
If you know anything about this case, contact Mary Ann White through this website