3 ON YOUR SIDE (3TV) - "I just think I was blessed to have the time that I had with her,” said John Mrowiec.
He is talking about his wife Deborah of 41 years. She recently died unexpectedly. Yet, he says memories of her are all around, like her talent for crocheting.
"She very much loved what she did. She loved life. She just wanted to make the world a better place," said Mrowiec.
His wife died in December while undergoing what Mrowiec says was supposed to be an outpatient surgery at Arrowhead Abrazo Hospital.
“It was supposed to be simple and it turned into a major tragedy," he said.
Mrowiec says dealing with his wife's death has been gut-wrenching enough.
But compounding his suffering is knowing he hasn't been able to lay her to rest and she died more than a month ago. The problem? He's been unable to obtain her death certificate.
"If you don't have a death certificate you cannot have any services. You cannot have a funeral. You cannot have a cremation. You can't do anything,” he said.
Mrowiec claims a death certificate can't be issued until a doctor signs off on her death and that hasn't happened.
"I had to make calls each and every day and I'm getting stonewalled," he said.
Finally, after weeks of calling the hospital, Mrowiec says a doctor signed off.
But the official cause of death listed wasn't acceptable to the Medical Examiner's Office.
“It was very vague. The County medical examiner rejected the cause of death. The doctor put down multiple organ failures,” said Mrowiec.
Mrowiec says he was told "multiple organ failures" wasn't considered an official determination of death.
As a result, his wife continued to remain in the morgue until a more accurate cause was listed or at least until more documentation was provided.
"We're not dealing with a product at all. We're dealing with somebody's life," Mrowiec said.
Unable to have any kind of services for his wife for nearly a month, Mrowiec contacted 3 On Your Side.
The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office tells 3 On Your Side it was not to blame for Mrowiec's agony, saying it didn't receive signatures or an accurate cause of death from the hospital for more than three weeks.
So, we contacted the hospital, which acknowledged the tending physicians, who aren’t generally hospital employees, need to sign off on the cause of death.
However, after we started asking more questions, it seems that the hospital was able to get a doctor to properly sign off on the cause of death.
Abrazo Arrowhead release this statement to 3 On Your Side:
“We have worked to coordinate communication among the physicians and medical examiner and funeral home to fulfill the family’s wishes for final disposition. We are sorry for the unfortunate delay.”
And with that, Mrowiec was finally able to get closure.
"3 On Your Side got involved on Wednesday. Last week I believe, they signed off on a death certificate the next day, and Debbie, my wife went to cremation the following day, so it was taken care of that quickly."
Mrowiec says there is no excuse for what happened. And he credits 3 On Your Side for getting things done.
“It did happen very, very quickly when they started getting calls from 3 On Your Side. And I thank you for that. I can't thank you enough for that,” he said.