Family of Model Left Brain-Damaged After Allergic Reaction to Peanut Butter Pretzel Is Awarded $29.5 Million
Beck Starr / FilmMagic
A Las Vegas jury awarded $ 29.5 million to a family of a former model and actress who suffered brain damage after an allergic reaction to eating a peanut butter pretzel.
Chantel Giacalone's family received the money Friday after a jury in a civil lawsuit ruled that a Nevada ambulance company was negligent in their treatment in February 2013, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
The then 27-year-old modeled clothing at the Mandalay Bay South Convention Center when she bit into a small pretzel given to her by a friend. Unknown to Giacalone, the little snack had peanut butter and she went into anaphylactic shock.
The condition is a severe allergic reaction that can lead to a variety of symptoms. The most critical, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a narrowing of the airways, which causes difficulty breathing.
Patients are typically given epinephrine, an epinephrine treatment commonly used for severe asthma attacks. If the disease is not treated right away, it can be fatal, Mayo Clinic added.
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Chantel Giacalone Fund / Facebook
Giacalone attorney Christian Morris, who did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment, said the aspiring actress' brain was without oxygen for a few minutes after she received treatment from MedicWest Ambulance staff working at the convention center were stationed.
Morris argued that none of the medics had adrenaline intravenously, which the Southern Nevada Health District says is required by the Associated Press. While doctors used intramuscular adrenaline, intravenous adrenaline is needed when a patient has already been in shock.
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William Drury, a MedicWest attorney, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
During the trial, MedicWest denied the negligence, arguing that Giacalone's death was inevitable due to the severity of her allergy to peanuts, the review journal reported. The medics also testified that Giacalone continued to breathe during her treatment, and they immediately requested advanced life support when she got to her location.
Today, Giacalone - who has appeared in films like The Buttery Effect 3: Revelations and Hollow Walls - is paraplegic and has to be looked after by her parents Jack and Deborah Giacalone around the clock. She can only communicate with her eyes.
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"At least my daughter will be looked after. I'm happy about it," said Jack after the jury's decision, according to the Review-Journal. "I'm not happy with all the agony we've been through over the past eight years."
The couple intend to donate some of the money to organizations that benefit people with brain injuries. They also plan to buy a new home with more space to care for their daughter.
"I don't want her to go anywhere. I love her and she loves me," said Deborah, the newspaper reported. "It's very difficult to take care of her, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
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