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One Small Pretzel Turned Her Into a Quadriplegic

Chantel Giacalone awarded $29.5M after suffering brain damage from allergy
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 12, 2021 7:18 AM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2021 2:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – A model and aspiring actress who suffered severe brain damage because of a bite-size pretzel has been awarded $29.5 million by a jury, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Chantel Giacalone, then 27, was in Vegas at a convention in 2013 when a friend brought her a frozen yogurt with the pretzel as its topping. The problem is that the pretzel had been infused with peanut butter, and Giacalone is allergic to peanuts. She began struggling to breathe almost immediately and sought attention from a medical tent run by MedicWest Ambulance. Then came Giacalone's next misfortune: The tent did not have IV epinephrine, even though state law requires paramedics to have it on hand, per TMZ. Giacolone went into anaphylactic shock and lost oxygen to her brain in the minutes before an ambulance arrived.

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“At least my daughter will be taken care of. I’m happy about that,” father Jack Giacalone tells the Vegas newspaper. “All the anguish that we’ve been through for the last eight years, I’m not happy about. I just hope MedicWest changes their ways.” Now 35, Giacalone is back home in Detroit, where she is a quadriplegic who requires 24-hour care. She is fed through a tube and can communicate only through her eyes. Her mother, Deborah, sleeps by her side and provides most of her care. With the money, the family plans to buy a home specifically suited to Giacalone's needs. In the civil trial, MedicWest did not deny wrongdoing but said Giacalone never lost consciousness in its care. The company argued for a lower award, citing her severe allergy. (Read more allergic reaction stories.)

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