She didn't know there was peanut butter inside, and suffered a severe allergic reaction.
A model who was left severely brain damaged from an allergic reaction to a peanut butter pretzel has been awarded $29.5 million.
The family of 35-year-old Chantel Giacalone sued MedicWest Ambulance for negligence, claiming they failed to properly treat her anaphylactic shock.
It was in February of 2013 when the then 27-year-old was modeling clothes at a Las Vegas convention when her friend, Tara Retes, bought her frozen yogurt and put a tiny bite-size pretzel on top. Giacalone bit into it, unaware it was filled with peanut butter, to which she was severely allergic.
She immediately called her dad, who told her to administer her EpiPen, get to the medical tent ASAP and send her friend to get Benadryl. What happened over the text few minutes would have a devastating impact on the rest of her life.
According to Retes' testimony, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal, when they got to the tent just after 3 PM, it was clear her friend would not be able to swallow the Benadryl; her throat was closing and she was turning black and blue. She said her rings looked like they were about to pop off her swollen fingers.
Family attorney Christian Morris said that per phone records, Giacalone was in the medical tent by 3:06 PM, but the medics didn't call for emergency dispatch until 3:11 PM, by which time the patient had passed out and stopped breathing.
Morris also told the three-week civil trial that the medics only were only equipped with intramuscular epinephrine injections — which they did administer — but neither had the intravenous version, as required by state law, needed in cases of full anaphylaxis.
He said the drug that could have saved Giacalone only cost $2.42.
"Every minute of Chantel's life has been inextricably altered," he said in his closing argument on Thursday. "Every single minute since she walked into that medic room to a company that chose profits over patient care."
He sought $60 million damages, for past and future medical expenses, as well as past and future pain and emotional suffering.
In its defense, MedicWest attorneys claimed they immediately called advanced life support knowing how serious the situation was; they claimed Giacalone never stopped breathing or lost consciousness in their care.
They claimed nothing they could have done could have changed the outcome, due to her severe allergy. They also agued that if found negligent, $8 million would suffice.
Before the accident, Giacalone was an aspiring actress with roles in "The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations", "Skyler" and "Adam." With her brain starved of oxygen for several crucial minutes, she was left almost completely paralyzed, able to communicate only using her eyes.
She lives in a bed in her parents dining room, fed through a tube, and requires 24 hour care, which her mother has been providing most of to date.
Her family will now use the money to move to a more suitable home, with her own room and special shower; they also want to donate some of it to charities helping people with similar brain injuries.
"I don't know how Chantel didn't die. But she lived for a reason,” her 70-year-old father Jack said. "She's still in there. She still has emotions."