“Overwhelmed, overwhelmed.” That’s how Laquna Ross told Channel 2 Action News she felt after she found her dad with swollen, red bumps all over his body and his hands swollen when she visited him last week before his death at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center, a nursing home for veterans on the Atlanta VA Medical Center campus.

Vietnam vet with cancer found covered in ants before dying at DeKalb VA nursing home

A Vietnam War veteran who was dying of cancer was found in his nursing home room covered in ants twice, leaving him with more than 100 bites, his daughter told Channel 2 Action News.

Joel Marrable, who served in the Air Force, was staying at the Eagle’s Nest Community Living Center on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s campus in DeKalb County, Channel 2 reported. Laquna Ross said her father was battling cancer, but she learned shortly before his death last week that he was living in insect-infested conditions.

“He served his country in the Air Force, and I think that he deserved better,” she told Channel 2.

This is a photo of Joel Marrable from when he served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.
Photo: Channel 2 Action News

Ross visited him last week and noticed he had dozens of swollen red bumps, Channel 2 reported. Both of his hands were swollen with bites. She said the staff never told her before she arrived what happened.

However, when she asked, she said she received a nonchalant answer.

“(The staff member) said, ‘You know, the ants,’” Ross said. “The staff member says to me, ‘When we walked in here, we thought Mr. Marrable was dead. We thought he wasn’t even alive, because the ants were all over him.’”

Ross told the news station the ants weren’t just on her father, but they also plastered the ceiling, walls and beds. The staff members cleaned the room, but she said the ants returned the next day, with the same results.


When Ross complained, Marrable was moved to a new room, where he later died due to his bout with cancer, Channel 2 reported.

The VA sent the news station a statement that apologized, adding that actions have been taken to address the ant problem.

All bedrooms at the nursing home were stripped, cleaned and inspected for ants. In addition, all open containers and open food items were removed from all bedrooms, the VA said. 

Channel 2 reported the VA said it considers this incident an opportunity to re-evaluate its facilities and practices.

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