Husband recounts loss of his wife
BRECKENRIDGE Robert Small described his wife as a doting mother, master gardener and lover of the outdoors in his emotional testimony Wednesday during this medical malpractice suit for the wrongful deaths of his wife and unborn baby. Small filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against Dr. Patricia Duletsky, a Salida woman who practiced in Frisco for more than 10 years.The suit is being tried in Summit District Court in front of Judge Terry Ruckriegle.Smalls wife, Susanna Martens, and the baby, who was to be named Sarah Edith Small, died March 15, 2000, seven hours after Martens went to Dr. Duletsky because she was not feeling well.Martens died of a cardiac arrest, caused by the Group A streptococcus bacterial infection. The plaintiffs Denver-based lawyers, Leventhal, Brown and Puga, are arguing that Duletsky should have recognized and treated the bacterial infection that led to Martens death.Duletsky often closed her eyes or stared down at her lap as Small recalled his life with Martens.The couple married in 1995, after meeting several years earlier when Martens answered a roommate-wanted advertisement that Small had posted.Small remembered his wife as a dedicated mother to their daughter Shannon, now almost 9.They were very close, Small said. Susanna would never miss a moment when she could parent Shannon.Susanna was thrilled when she found out she was pregnant for a second time in 1999, Small added.She was the kind of person who didnt feel completely fulfilled until she was a mother, Small said, choking back tears. It was the most important thing to her.Susanna also was a master gardener, who often grew her own produce, which she would then sell at the Dillon Farmers Market, Small said.The courtroom was silent as Small thought back to March 14, 2000, when Martens first complained of feeling ill.He recalled Duletsky diagnosing his wife with the stomach flu when they first visited her office at about 6 p.m.Dr. Duletsky told us to go home, Small said. She gave us a prescription for medication that would keep (Susanna) from vomiting, and said try to get some fluids down and maybe have a snack.Several hours later, they then went to Summit Medical Center when Martens condition failed to improve.The baby died several hours later, followed by Martens.When Dr. Duletsky told Small of the deaths, he asked if they had saved the baby.We thought about it was the answer Small said Duletsky gave him at the time.In the afternoon, Small took the stand again to finish his testimony.The later portion of Smalls questioning revolved around how his and Shannons lives had changed since the deaths nearly five years ago.Small testified to losing 20 pounds since then and not yet returning to a regular job in order to better care for Shannon.He described taking on new tasks, such as cooking and cleaning that Susanna once handled.Most importantly, Small said, was making his daughter his No. 1 priority.I had to maintain a very positive, nurturing, loving relationship with my daughter to overcome both of our sorrows, he said.
Another key witness for the plaintiffs case was Dr. Ben Galloway, who performed the autopsy on Martens and on her baby.Galloway testified that he has more than 30 years of experience as a forensic pathologist and has performed nearly 10,000 autopsies.He confirmed that Martens died from cardiopulmonary failure caused by a bacterial infection of the blood.Galloway also said that, in his opinion, Martens heart condition, which was undiscovered before her death, did not contribute to her death. In its opening statement, the defense said it would argue that Martens heart condition was aggravated by the bacterial infection.But, later in cross-examination, Galloway said it would be very difficult to tell whether the heart condition was affected by the infection at all.Galloway also testified that he didnt see any reason why the baby wouldnt have been able to survive outside the womb.As part of their case, the plaintiffs are questioning why Duletsky did not perform a Caesarian section to save the babys life.Other medical testimony came early Wednesday morning from Deana Walleen, a nurse who provided care to Martens the evening of her death.Walleen first saw Martens at 9:45 p.m. on the evening of March 14, 2000, and said, at the time, she was concerned about Martens temperature of 102.7 degrees.Duletsky had recommended taking vital signs every four hours on Martens, but Walleen checked them as often as every half hour throughout the night because of her concern.Walleen testified she notified Duletsky of Martens high temperature on several occasions throughout the night, at one point, even walking the thermometer to Duletsky in another room.Duletsky was attending to another patient that evening, who gave birth at 10:13 p.m.Martens had also complained of uterine contractions all night, for which Duletsky had prescribed Terbutaline, a drug that stops contractions, Walleen said.On the stand, Walleen said she had been worried about the two doses of Terbutaline because they werent stopping Martens contractions.In opening statements Tuesday, Smalls attorneys argued that the Terbutaline may have added extra stress to Martens heart.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 229 or at email@example.com
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