Husband reveals final words of wife before she died after eating uncooked mushrooms at sushi joint

The husband of a Montana woman who died after she allegedly ate uncooked mushrooms from a sushi restaurant has renewed his calls for accountability in her death.

Donna Ventura, 64, spent 12 days in the intensive care unit after she was rushed to the hospital for what her husband thought was a normal case of food poisoning following a lunch at Dave’s Sushi in Bozeman.

The woman went into cardiac arrest when she entered the hospital and ultimately passed away from liver and kidney failure on 29 April 2023. The illness also did damage to her oesophagus and trachea, the husband said.

“It was surreal to think that the simple act of going out to lunch would end up putting her in the intensive care unit”, Jon Ventura, 63, the woman’s husband, told KBZK, a local news station.

Jon Ventura, 63, lost his wife Donna, 64, after she became ill from allegedly eating uncooked morel mushrooms at a sushi restaurant. (KBZK Bozeman Montana)
Jon Ventura, 63, lost his wife Donna, 64, after she became ill from allegedly eating uncooked morel mushrooms at a sushi restaurant. (KBZK Bozeman Montana)

The woman’s doctors tried various efforts to save her life, he said, including obtaining special authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration to administer a drug that could fight mushroom toxicity, the Montana Free Press reported.

In her final days, her husband gave her white paper and red magic markers that allowed her to write messages. Some of those messages were: “I’m not sure I can go on much longer. How are we going to manage? I can’t stand the pain”, he told the outlet.

The last couple of messages she wrote were to her husband and to her son, telling them how much she loved them, he continued. The woman later refused a feeding tube despite her husband’s opposition, the outlet reported. At one point, she lost the ability to breathe on her own and needed a ventilator.

The husband now wears the couple’s wedding rings fused together on a chain around his neck.

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

Mr Ventura has since launched a wrongful death lawsuit against the restaurant. If he receives damages, he hopes to open a scholarship in his wife’s name at Montana State University.

In July, the state and county health departments released a report stating that 50 people who ate at the restaurant got sick from eating morel mushrooms. One other person, William Lewis, 74, died. Three out of the 50 people were hospitalised.

Officials were unable to determine what element inside the mushrooms caused the reactions. A routine restaurant inspection conducted by county officials found additional violations at the sushi establishment.

The citations included unsafe temperatures in a sample of raw fish and issues with the dishwasher that were corrected on the same day, the Montana Free Press noted.

Aaron Parker, the owner of Dave’s Sushi, acknowledged that his restaurant was at fault for the deaths of the people who consumed the food from his establishment.

“We served the food that led to the illnesses”, he said. “Absolutely”.