Harmeet Kaur studied two years of law in her native India. She settled for a teaching certificate after she got married.
Now she’s thinking about going back to school in the United States to become a registered nurse.
Between sobs, Kaur told a Snohomish County Superior Court jury on Wednesday that she observed the concern and kindness of nurses who were caring for her husband, Paramjit Singh, who was close to death in 2004 after a medical device burned his heart so badly it became useless.
Kaur slept most nights in a waiting room at the University of Washington Medical Center, while Singh waited about 11 weeks to he get a heart transplant. She watched the nurses attending to him.
“I want to make a difference in other people’s lives,” she told the jury about what could be her new career.
The 45 minutes of testimony was an emotional island in a sea of cold facts, video depositions and piles of documents assembled for a civil lawsuit underway in Judge Linda Krese’s courtroom.
The Singhs are suing the manufacturer of the malfunctioning device, Edwards Lifesciences of Irvine, Calif., alleging that the company knew about a defect in software in a monitor which , under an unusual set of circumstances, could cause a catheter to overheat and destroy a heart.
In this case, Singh went into Providence Everett Medical Center for routine heart bypass surgery. The Vigilance monitor and catheter were used to measure blood flow during parts of the procedure.
According to testimony, hospital doctors didn’t know it was possible for an unused section of computer code in the monitor to trigger overheating and turn off fail-safe measures in the machine.
Jurors also were told about a similar incident in Japan two years before Singh’s heart was destroyed. Paul Luvera, one of Singh’s lawyers, said the company knew about problems with the machine and didn’t fix them.
One expert testified that the catheter’s filament in Singh’s heart reached a temperature of 500 degrees.
Providence also is joining the suit, alleging that it has spent a lot of money on testing and trial work, and has suffered a damaged reputation because of the Edwards product. Edwards, on the other hand, maintains that Providence is partly to blame because it used a damaged cable, and contends that’s one of the triggers for the monitor’s computer code malfunction.
The company’s lawyers have told the jury that Edwards accepts part of the responsibility for the injury to Singh and is willing to pay him a fair amount.
In court on Wednesday, Kaur gave the jury an insight into how the malfunctioning monitor affected her family’s life and a large group of friends and extended family members in Seattle and British Columbia.
In tears and with Luvera’s encouragement, she told the jury that both she and Singh were married previously, but their partners died. They married in 1996 in Vancouver, B.C., settled in Mount Vernon and became American citizens.
Singh, then 52, was healthy and active in 2004 before he went to a hospital in Mount Vernon, she told the jury. He thought he had a pulled muscle, but doctors said he suffered a mild heart attack.
Singh was sent to Providence, a respected cardiovascular treatment facility.
“He was very healthy” before surgery on Oct. 11, 2004, she testified. “He would always wake me up in the morning and make tea for me. He was always a happy camper.”
He’s still weak, and suffers complications from the anti-rejection medication he must continue taking. Singh has already had one round of blood cancer, and could get it again, she said.
Singh also is in danger of kidney failure, and his immune system is weakened because of medications. His life expectancy may now be only another eight to 13 years, according to testimony.
For a long time Kaur had to feed her husband and bathe him, which is tough for an independent man, she said.
“He doesn’t want me to do all those things for him,” she told the jury. “He never has been dependent on anybody all his life.”
He tried to garden, but still tires easily, she said. His memory sometimes fails him.
“He wants to do something and he can’t do it,” she told jurors. He can’t play with his younger children, ages 11 and 7.
“I don’t know how long he will live,” Kaur testified. “We wish that he could live a long life.”
Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or email@example.com.