Traversie, 69, underwent double-bypass surgery at Rapid City Regional Hospital on August 26, 2011. He remained at the hospital until September 8. The day before his discharge, he said, a nurse approached him and asked him to confirm his name and birth date. When she verified who he was, she began to talk.
“‘My conscience won’t let me be,’ she said to me,” Traversie remembered. “She said, ‘It’s bothered me for days. Something was done to you, and I believe it was wrong. I can’t sleep; I keep thinking about what they did to you.’”
Then, Traversie said, she asked him to make her a promise: to find someone with a camera as soon as he got home, and have that person take photos of his stomach and back.
“She said to do it right away, and then she said she wouldn’t identify herself or testify for me,” he said. “She told me she couldn’t endanger herself or her family.”
And Traversie had no way to identify her, or even to see what she was talking about. He is legally blind.
The hospital van brought Traversie back to his Eagle Butte home late on September 8. He said he was so tired and sick, his girlfriend put him to bed. The next morning, his home-healthcare worker from Timber Lake-based West Winds Home Health Care arrived to check on him.
Vern Traversie Scars 270×180 Was Lakota Man Victim of a Hate Crime in South Dakota Hospital? The Troubling Story of Vern Traversie
Wounds on Vern Traversie’s stomach following his release from Rapid City Regional Hospital. Three K’s appear to be among the wounds. (Courtesy Justice for Vern Traversie Facebook Page)
“I told her what the lady said to me,” Traversie said. “She had a camera, and when she went to take pictures of my abdomen, she said, “Oh my God. I don’t know what they did to you.”
Photos of Traversie’s body show scars from the 2011 surgery and prior procedures. They also show deep, scattered wounds — including what look like three Ks across his abdomen.
“You can see the surgery sutures, and they’re clean,” Traversie said. “But those three letters, two good-sized Ks and one smaller one off to the side, had to be made with some sharp knife or heated instrument. It’s like they branded me.”
Traversie’s healthcare worker immediately took her photos to Indian Health Services in Eagle Butte, which requested that Traversie come in immediately. He said his doctor was shocked.