Agent Orange Exposure In Vietnam: A Spokane Woman’s Battle - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Agent Orange Exposure In Vietnam: A Spokane Woman’s Battle

SPOKANE, Wash – Terry Siekerman just marked the eighth anniversary of her husband, Gary Gilbrech's death.  While she's still trying to figure out how to live without him, she's also still waiting for validation over why she says he died.

"I'm surviving, I'm trying to get on with life like he asked me to, but there's an empty spot that will never be filled," Siekerman told KHQ.

Siekerman believes it was Gibrech's service in Vietnam as a young man that ultimately took his life decades later, through exposure to a chemical called Agent Orange.  During the war, the United States military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of chemicals on the ground to defoliate forested land and deprive enemy fighters of food and cover.

But Agent Orange was later discovered to be a cancer-causing poison.

"He had a complete physical in January, and 7 months later he got a death sentence," she explained.

Just before the couple's 21st wedding anniversary – and newly retired – Gilbrech developed a pain in his back and side.  Doctors found a mass they believed was cancer and removed a kidney but it was too little, too late.  Renal Cell Carcinoma had spread to his lungs, and doctors said he had months to live.

They were right.

Nine months later, he passed away at age 56.

"It's hard to fathom that 30, 40, 50, 60 years later, exposure to Agent Orange is still causing people to be sick or dying, but it is," Siekerman told KHQ.

She filed a benefits claim with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, but it was denied.  Now she's waiting to hear back on an appeal.

"Their findings are that Agent Orange doesn't cause Renal Cell Carcinoma," she added.  "I don't believe it."

In 2005, a doctor in Missouri found another veteran's kidney cancer was "more likely than not caused by Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam."

A 2011 study from the American Urological Association reports a link exists between the two.

But on the Veteran Affairs website, while the list of diseases linked to exposure continues to grow as the years pass, for now Renal Cell Carcinoma isn't there.

"Until I take my last breath, I'm not giving up on this," Siekerman said, adding that she ultimately wants to see her husband's name added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  "He earned it."

Terry Siekerman hopes if you have a loved one who served in Vietnam and died of kidney cancer, that you report it so there's a more accurate picture of the lives lost after they left the battlefield.

KHQ's Kelsey Watts reached out several times to the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane to comment on Agent Orange and what Vietnam veterans need to know, but representatives decided not to be part of this story.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • New York State illegally moving convicted sex offenders from prisons into group homes with the developmentally disabled

    New York State illegally moving convicted sex offenders from prisons into group homes with the developmentally disabled

    Thursday, September 20 2018 9:14 AM EDT2018-09-20 13:14:31 GMT
    Three State agencies are involved in placing convicted sex offenders in group homes or hiding this information from the families and the general public>>
    Three State agencies are involved in placing convicted sex offenders in group homes or hiding this information from the families and the general public>>
  • Detectives identify woman found in Spokane River

    Detectives identify woman found in Spokane River

    Thursday, September 20 2018 8:35 PM EDT2018-09-21 00:35:31 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Update: Detectives have identified the woman found in the Spokane River September 15 just hours after releasing a rending of what she may have looked like. Detectives continue to work to determine what occurred prior to her death.

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Update: Detectives have identified the woman found in the Spokane River September 15 just hours after releasing a rending of what she may have looked like. Detectives continue to work to determine what occurred prior to her death.

    >>
  • Hayden students go viral for patriotic flag photo

    Hayden students go viral for patriotic flag photo

    Thursday, September 20 2018 8:04 PM EDT2018-09-21 00:04:30 GMT

    HAYDEN, Idaho - Old Glory flies triumphantly above Hayden Meadows Elementary. But, every day at the end of school, three keepers of the flag make sure she’s in safe hands. Fifth graders Naylan Tuttle, Jack LeBreck, and Casey Dolan go through the steps necessary to make sure the U.S. flag is properly folded and stored without it ever touching the ground.

    >>

    HAYDEN, Idaho - Old Glory flies triumphantly above Hayden Meadows Elementary. But, every day at the end of school, three keepers of the flag make sure she’s in safe hands. Fifth graders Naylan Tuttle, Jack LeBreck, and Casey Dolan go through the steps necessary to make sure the U.S. flag is properly folded and stored without it ever touching the ground.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • Opponents and activists for I-1639 sound off

    Opponents and activists for I-1639 sound off

    Saturday, September 22 2018 9:16 PM EDT2018-09-23 01:16:50 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Initiative-1639 has been the root of controversy ever since supporters began asking for signatures. It became even more complicated when the Washington Supreme Court overturned a Thurston County judges decision after the judge initially threw out over 300,000 signatures saying the petition didn't follow election law claiming it was unreadable. 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Initiative-1639 has been the root of controversy ever since supporters began asking for signatures. It became even more complicated when the Washington Supreme Court overturned a Thurston County judges decision after the judge initially threw out over 300,000 signatures saying the petition didn't follow election law claiming it was unreadable. 

    >>
  • Thieves try to break into Mead cemetery again

    Thieves try to break into Mead cemetery again

    Saturday, September 22 2018 8:32 PM EDT2018-09-23 00:32:15 GMT

    MEAD Wash. - Dale Baker takes time out of his busy schedule to make sure the Peone Cemetery in Mead right off of North Bruce Road is well cared for "It's a personal thing to me to volunteer here to keep something up that’s important to everybody in this community," said Volunteer Dale Baker Baker has relatives and friends who are buried in the over 100-year-old cemetery. 

    >>

    MEAD Wash. - Dale Baker takes time out of his busy schedule to make sure the Peone Cemetery in Mead right off of North Bruce Road is well cared for "It's a personal thing to me to volunteer here to keep something up that’s important to everybody in this community," said Volunteer Dale Baker Baker has relatives and friends who are buried in the over 100-year-old cemetery. 

    >>
  • Wind topples tree limb, concrete post; 1 killed, 2 injured in Tri-Cities

    Wind topples tree limb, concrete post; 1 killed, 2 injured in Tri-Cities

    Saturday, September 22 2018 7:43 PM EDT2018-09-22 23:43:47 GMT

    RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - High winds toppled a tree limb and a concrete light post at two festivals in the Tri-Cities, killing one woman and sending two other people to a hospital. The Tri-City Herald reports that sustained winds of 18 mph (29 kmh) and gusts of up to 25 mph (40 kph) knocked down a tree limb at Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire on Saturday afternoon, killing a woman.  

    >>

    RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) - High winds toppled a tree limb and a concrete light post at two festivals in the Tri-Cities, killing one woman and sending two other people to a hospital. The Tri-City Herald reports that sustained winds of 18 mph (29 kmh) and gusts of up to 25 mph (40 kph) knocked down a tree limb at Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire on Saturday afternoon, killing a woman.  

    >>