Schwaller describes final moments of wife's life in Vioxx trial

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 13, 2007, 1:00am

Frank Schwaller recalled for jurors the final moments of his wife's life as his attorneys get close to wrapping up their case in Madison County's first Vioxx trial.

Schwaller, of Granite City, filed suit against Merck in 2005, claiming Vioxx was defectively designed, inadequately tested, dangerous to human health, and lacked proper warnings, which subjected users to risks of heart attacks, strokes and other illnesses.

His wife, Patricia (Pattie) died of a heart attack on Aug. 8, 2003, and he blames Vioxx for her death.

Questioned by attorney John Driscoll of Brown & Crouppen, Schwaller said he met Pattie at the old A&W Root beer restaurant where she dumped root beer on him and his mustang.

"She was a real sweetheart," Schwaller said as he described how he courted his future wife.

He said his wife was a loving mother and wife who loved to cook, read and cross stitch.

Schwaller said his wife and two children would often go on vacation to Silver Dollar City and loved to go on float trips on the Meramec river.

Schwaller also described the last time he saw Pattie alive.

He said it was a Friday and she was returning home from the grocery store with what was needed to celebrate their son's 21st birthday party the next day.

Schwaller said Pattie opened the door and asked their son to help with groceries and told him, "I love you, but I have to go to the bathroom."

Schwaller said after about 10 minutes when she did not return he started to call her name. He testified that he did not hear a "thud" or anything but thought he heard the shower curtain ring make a noise.

He said after calling her name three times he went to the bathroom to check on her and found her lying between the bathtub and the toilet.

Schwaller said he called his son into the bathroom and they called 911 while his son started CPR.

He said the ambulance was at their house within four minutes and they took her to Gateway Hospital where he learned his wife of more than 30 years was dead.

Schwaller said he went into the hospital room and talked to his wife for 15 minutes after her death.

Schwaller said since his wife's death it has been "a roller coaster ride with no ups."

He said he was taking medications and drinking a lot to "kill the pain.

Schwaller also said that he would sometimes stay in the house for two months at a time going over the day his wife died wondering if he could have done anything different.

He said his son who was a "mama's boy" still has not talked about his mother's death.

"One of these days he will let loose," Schwaller said.

Schwaller also said the hardest part was being "lonely."

Plaintiffs' attorneys are planning to wrap up their case on Wednesday or early Thursday.

Merck will then start their case which is expected to take around eight days.

Closing arguments are tentatively set for March 26.

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