CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The husband of a toxic shock victim wept today as a nurse told a federal court jury in the Procter & Gamble Relay tampon trial that his wife asked if she was going to die during treatment for TSS.
'I heard her say, 'Am I going to die?'' nurse Lois Sterenchuk said in the fourth day of testimony. She said Patricia Kehm made the statement during emergency room treatment.
Her husband, Michael, wept during today's testimony in the trial over his $30 million suit against P&G. His wife died from TSS Sept. 6, 1980. Kehm alleges the disease was caused by his wife's use of Rely tampons, manufactured by P&G.
Mrs. Sterenchuk was questioned at length on why she disposed of a tampon she removed from Mrs. Kehm upon doctor's orders.
'In my 30 years of nursing, I have never saved one yet,' she said. 'I suppose in hindsight it would have been better to do that if nothing more than to positively identify the tampon.'
Attorneys for P&G tried to dispute the nurse's recollection that the tampon she removed was a Rely brand. However, Mrs. Sterenchuk said the tampon had an unusual shape that she identified as Rely in a courtroom test conducted by Kehm's attorney, Tom Riley.
On Wednesday, a woman testified that months after she complained to P&G about becoming severely ill from using Rely tampons, the company issued a memo telling officials to keep quiet about reports of toxic shock syndrome.
Susan Meyers, of Omaha, Neb., testified she suffered from severe vomiting, diarrhea and low blood pressure a day after using Rely tampons for the first time, in September 1979.
Mrs. Meyers said she was hospitalized for more than a week in the intensive care unit of an Omaha hospital, but doctors never fully understood her illness.
She said she called P&G to complain about the product and find out the makeup of Rely tampons because she feared an allergic reaction, but got no cooperation from the company.
Reading from a June 27, 1980, P&G memo to company management, Mrs. Meyers said managers were told if they were asked about previous complaints about their product, they were to say the company has 'never been aware of any extensive illness caused by our product.'
The memo was subpoenaed by the Kehm family attorney.
Mrs. Meyers said she recovered after the first bout but had the same symptoms again when she used Rely tampons the following month.
'I sat up in bed and asked myself what on earth have these two occurrences in common,' she said. 'All of a sudden it came to me -- I had started using Rely that last period and started using them this period.'
She said she realized she had TSS when she read a newspaper report describing the symptoms.
Thomas Calder, an attorney for P&G, tried to show the company did not place much emphasis on Mrs. Meyers' illness because she had not filled out a questionnaire that was mailed to her about possible side effects she suffered from Rely.
Mrs. Meyers said she was not sent the questionnaire until 2 years after her complaint and found it too complex to complete.
In cross-examining another witness, P&G attorneys tried to show Dr. John Jacobs was coerced into listing TSS as the cause of Mrs. Kehm's illness because he feared a malpractice suit from her husband.
However, Jacobs told the court that he had diagnosed the illness as TSS and filled out the death certificate several weeks before he talked to Kehm's attorney about a lawsuit.
The trial entered its fourth day today and Dr. Phillip Tierno from the New York University Medical Center was expected to testify on new findings released this week that he says link TSS and Rely tampons.