Wife of martial arts instructor sues hospital
AZTEC — The wife of a deceased local martial arts instructor has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against San Juan Regional Medical Center.
Tammy Kauvaka states in the lawsuit filed Monday that her husband, Sikahema "Sika" Kauvaka, underwent surgery on June 3, 2012, at the Farmington hospital to have a tumor removed from his pancreas.
Dr. James Boyd performed the surgery and allegedly "nicked" Sika Kauvaka's colon, which caused infected fluid to drain into the abdomen, according to the complaint.
Sika Kauvaka was treated for abscesses that formed after surgery, but the perforated colon was not discovered until Sika Kauvaka was treated in November 2012 at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., the lawsuit states.
In May, Sika Kauvaka was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died on Aug. 31.
Tammy Kauvaka alleges in the lawsuit that the perforated colon contributed to her husband's cancer. She further alleges doctors were negligent in failing to discover the cancer sooner.
Hospital spokeswoman Laura Werbner said it is not the policy of San Juan Regional Medical Center to discuss the specifics of a lawsuit.
Tammy Kauvaka's attorney, Eric Morrow, said Wednesday that Sika Kauvaka was a beloved member of the community who owned a martial arts academy, Master Kauvaka's System Schools in Aztec, for several years.
Morrow said the doctors at San Juan Regional Medical Center were twice negligent in treating Sika Kauvaka — first by perforating the man's colon and later by failing to diagnose the cancer.
"It was stage four (cancer) when they figured it out," Morrow said. "He saw doctors for three years and by the time they figure out he has cancer, it's stage four."
Stage four is an advanced form of cancer that typically has spread to other areas in the body.
Boyd, two other doctors and the hospital are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
Tammy Kauvaka claims negligence, wrongful death, breach of contract and loss of consortium.
She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.