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Husband recalls wife's heartbreaking final days after eating at Bozeman sushi restaurant

Posted at 10:29 AM, Apr 19, 2024

BOZEMAN — A regular day in April of last year quickly and unexpectedly turned into a nightmare for a local couple. Donna Ventura spent 12 days in the ICU at Bozeman Health after eating lunch at Dave's Sushi.

“It was surreal to think that the simple act of eating lunch would end up putting her in the intensive care unit,” said Jon Ventura.

Jon Ventura met his wife Donna in 1987 after they both finished grad school in Washington DC.

“Donna was smart, articulate, feisty, opinionated, and prepared to do verbal battle with me,” said Jon.

They married in 1999 and then hit the road to New Mexico.

“We both worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory for about 17 years,” said Jon.

In 2019, they moved to the Gallatin Valley. Their home is built on a big yard with a beautiful view and two very cute dogs roaming around. But on April 17, 2023, everything changed after Jon and Donna met some friends for lunch at Dave’s Sushi.

“She had the special roll with what we now know—uncooked morel mushrooms,” said Jon.

Within an hour after eating the special roll at Dave's sushi, Jon says Donna became sick.

“I called for an ambulance and in the hospital, she went into full cardiac arrest,” he said.

RELATED: Mysterious morel mushrooms at center of food poisoning outbreak

Donna spent 12 days in the intensive care unit at Bozeman Deaconess Regional Medical Center. Jon says the toxins from the uncooked morel mushrooms in the roll she ate at Dave's Sushi destroyed her kidneys and liver and damaged her esophagus and trachea.

“Her skin was tight, fluids were building up in her system—she was in enormous pain,” said Jon.

Aside from enduring immense amounts of pain, Jon says Donna was also frustrated because she was unable to speak. He says they gave Donna paper and a red magic marker to communicate her needs.

“Some of the messages she wrote were: 'I’m not sure I can go on much longer, how are we going to manage, I can’t stand the pain, can somebody clean my mouth.' The last couple she wrote were to me and our son where she wrote, I love you, and to our son, she wrote, 'I love you, Mr. C.'”

Jon says Donna made the decision to refuse a feeding tube, despite his opposition.

“When you’re married for as long as I was, you can understand your partner’s body language and looks,” said Jon. “The third or fourth time I talked to her about it I got the look that said, I’ve made my decision and I’m done, I’m not talking about this anymore.”

Donna died on April 29. She was 64 years old.

RELATED: ‘It can’t be my wife, because it’s just food poisoning’

Today, Jon wears a necklace to carry her memory with him; it’s their wedding bands fused together. They were married for almost 35 years.

“I told my wife on her deathbed that I would hold those accountable for what they’ve done to her,” said Jon.

That's why Jon is suing Dave’s Sushi for wrongful death.

Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Dave's Sushi

“I worry greatly about the people who eat at Dave's Sushi,” said Jon. "If you look at the records available through the Gallatin County Health Department, they’ve had multiple health code violations, not only at Dave’s Sushi but the other restaurants Aaron Parker owns, Jam and Revelry.”

“They’ve avoided all responsibility for the pain and suffering they’ve caused not only me and my son, but every person affected by their atrocious behavior,” Jon added.

Jon says if he receives damages in the lawsuit, he hopes to establish a scholarship at Montana State University in Donna’s name.

Click here to read a Q&A with Dave's Sushi.

RELATED: Bozeman sushi restaurant plans reopening as health officials investigate deaths, illness