By BILL HETHERMAN
City News Service
Testifying today in the trial of her husband's medical negligence case against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and two physicians, a woman told jurors it was months before one of those doctors visited her spouse after conducting an allegedly risky procedure that left him a quadriplegic.
Francine Markow turned in her seat in the witness box in Los Angeles Superior Court and glared at Dr. Howard Rosner, who sat on the other end of the courtroom expressionless.
"One hundred thirty-eight days later, you walked into my husband's room," she said as she fought back tears.
The 63-year-old woman, struggling to compose herself, then told jurors, "I'm sorry if I'm angry. My husband was my life."
The Markows sued Cedars-Sinai as well as Rosner and fellow anesthesiologist Nirmala Thejomurthy in January 2012. Michael Markow first sought help from Rosner, a pain management anesthesiologist, at the Cedars- Sinai Pain Center in 2006 due to severe neck pain, according to court papers filed by the couple's lawyers.
The suit alleges Markow, now 67, underwent a "high-risk" treatment involving "bilateral deep and dangerous injections" on Nov. 11, 2010, in the C1 and C2 cervical vertebrae. There are seven such vertebrae, with the lowest numbered being those nearest the skull.
The suit also alleges Rosner did not adequately inform Markow of the risks of the course of action before going forward with it.
Defense attorneys deny any breach of the standard of medical care occurred in Markow's case and that there is no proof his condition was caused by the conduct of the doctors.
Questioned by her attorney, Howard Kapp, Francine Markow said her husband began having complications from the procedure less than two weeks later. She said one of his specialists told her to get him to the hospital quickly.
Despite the distance from their Ventura County home, she directed that her husband be taken to Cedars-Sinai, she said.
"We believed in Cedars-Sinai," she said. "It was where we went for medical treatment."
Her spouse was having trouble dealing with the circumstances, she said.
"He was in a lot of pain," she said. "He was really scared and so was I. They took him in and the nightmare began. It hasn't stopped."
The rest of the day, she said, "is just like a big blur."
She said she encountered Rosner one day talking with other doctors in the hallway, and asked him, "What happened to my husband?"
She said Rosner replied by asking her about her parents.
"I knew he wasn't going to tell me anything," she said.
The witness, who sued for loss of consortium, said her husband's discomfort became unbearable for him.
"He was screaming in pain," she said, "It would come in waves. When you got off the elevator you could hear him yelling."
His doctors predicted his life span would be short, she said.
"I believed it and I didn't know where to begin to prepare myself for that inevitability," she said.
But she said she believes their strong relationship helped him survive.
"It was suggested I let him go, and I wasn't letting him go," she said. "This man loved life more than anyone. I did everything I could to keep him alive."
She said she spent 15 hours daily visiting her husband. She testified he was temporarily transferred to a respiratory facility in Van Nuys that they both detested.
"It's hard to describe it as a hospital," she said. "I would describe it as a hellhole."
She said he was brought back by chance to Cedars-Sinai and that she later received training on how to care for him while he was sent to yet another hospital, this time in Northridge.
'They told me he would need 24-hour care for the rest of his life," she said.
He came home after a total of nearly 400 days total at the various facilities. But instead of returning to their residence of nearly 20 years, he was brought instead to a rental property that had only one floor for greater wheelchair access, she said.
She said she sold their home because of the access issues and because the couple needed the money.
"It was a distress sale and I know I was taken advantage of because people knew I was really needy at that point," she said.