(Stephan C. Webster) A 68-year-old, blind South Dakota man says after a two week stay in a Rapid City hospital, he returned home with unusual wounds on his abdomen which his caretakers soon discovered appear to spell out the letters “KKK.”
Vernon Traversie, who’s of Lakota descent and lives with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, claimed in a YouTube video published this week that he believes he was the victim of a hate crime, and a retired nurse that examined a photo of his wounds reportedly claimed that the letters appear to have been burned into his flesh.
Traversie told the Last Real Indians blog that the hospital had claimed his wounds were sustained from surgical tape, but a home nurse who he says examined his torso immediately took the issue up with tribal police. Traversie claimed his former attorney, who he chose not to name, did nothing to help, and even urged him not to pursue claims against Rapid City Regional Hospital.
Evelyn Red Lodge, a writer for Last Real Indians, claims she had retired nurse Joyce Anderson examine a photo of Traversie’s abdomen. She reportedly said that the non-surgical wounds “would seem to be necrotic, meaning the tissue is dead. This could indicate the wounds were burned into his skin.” One of Traversie’s caretakers noticed that too.
“She said, I see the regular surgery stitches, where they cut you, and I also see the drainage holes… But the other thing are these scratches all over, like somebody took a knife and went haywire on you,” he explained on YouTube. “And there’s three letters on your stomach and they’re kind of reddish like they’re trying to bleed a little bit. The two of them are definitely K’s, and the third one is probably a K too.”
That’s when tribal police got involved, Traversie said. “The person who looked and saw it said it looked like someone took a branding iron and branded me,” he explained. “There’s two K’s that look like the only way you could accomplish it is through some sort of a — it wasn’t a knife that was used on me — some sort of a heating instrument. Maybe a little, homemade branding iron or something. It penetrated my three layers of skin and went down into my flesh like a brand would. I’m going to have those marks on my stomach for the rest of my life. I also have those on my spirit.”
“People have respect for their elders here in Cheyenne River,” he added, his voice shaking with emotion. “People have respect for their elders, but there’s… The Ku Klux Klan hate us. Because I’m helpless they took advantage of me. They’re trying to say the tape did it, that I had some kind of infection because I have diabetes, but I never had any infection. The nurses checked me all the time and I never had tape on me when I woke up. And… There’s no tape that can make perfect letter K’s.”
He added that shortly after he’d awoken from surgery, a male nurse “told me to shut my f-u-c-k mouth” because he had asked for pain medication. “If that guy didn’t do it, that male nurse, why… But, it doesn’t matter who did it,” he said. “The Ku Klux Klan has members in high class society, too.”
Traversie’s video has received more than 17,000 views in just over 36 hours. There’s also a Facebook page, Justice for Vern, that’s attracted over 2,000 followers since it launched on Wednesday.
Reached for comment, Red Lodge said that she was not permitted to give out Traversie’s contact information, but that a civil rights attorney has since reached out to offer representation.
Pamela Stillman-Rokusek, a spokesperson for Rapid City Regional Hospital, said they were “unable to comment on a patient’s treatment without consent.”
“In the absence of permission, it is not possible to respond to specific questions,” Stillman-Rokusek explained. “When patients submit complaints, we investigate them thoroughly and fully cooperate with outside regulatory organizations in their investigations. We hope all patients continue to seek the care they need at Rapid City Regional Hospital.”
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Police could not be reached for comment. A tribal council representative was also unavailable.
This video was published to YouTube on April 24, 2012.