Helen Chavez was a successful restauranteur and a member of the Tampa city council before her death. Now her daughter, Denise Chavez, is suing Dr. Christian Torres and physician assistant Kimberly Gore, alleging that their errors were responsible for her mother’s death. Helen first visited the doctors at a clinic in South Tampa in July of 2014. She was complaining of irritation and redness in her mouth and a strange swelling on her lips. The doctors diagnosed her with an allergic reaction, attributing it to a food she had recently eaten. They gave her Benedryl to treat the reaction and sent her home.
Denise said the doctors were aware that her mother was taking Rampiril for high blood pressure and they did not instruct her to stop taking it when she went in with the allergic reaction. After she went home, her condition escalated and she was later rushed to the hospital. After being admitted to the hospital, she spent a week in the intensive care unit and then Denise said doctors told the family that her mother was suffering from congestive heart failure that had been made worse by swelling.
According to the lawsuit, doctors were aware that Rampiril included risks for angioedema and erythema as side effects, but they failed to recognize these symptoms and misdiagnosed Helen with an allergic reaction. This ultimately led to her heart condition growing worse. She was sent home form the hospital on August 2 and died the same morning.
Denise believes the doctors failed her mother. If they had recognized her symptoms as a medication side effect, they could have made appropriate interventions before her condition worsened. Chavez is also suing GMS Bayside Physicians, the medical practice where Torres and Gore work.
When reporters attempted to contact the doctor and physician assistant for comments, the medical office said that Torres was on a medical leave of absence and had not been to the clinic in two full years.
Before her death, Helen Chavez was a beloved member of the Tampa community. She served on the city council for eight years and was largely responsible for the revival of Tampa’s Hyde Park and historic preservation movements in the city. Chavez was also involved in changing policies to stop misconduct among fans at Buccaneers games. She was a successful businesswoman, running multiple restaurants across Tampa including the Tea Room, Royal, and Chavez Windows.
Christopher Ligori, a personal injury attorney in Tampa, said the community lost a dear friend when Mrs. Chavez died. “During her 89 years, she worked hard to make our city better. We all feel the loss of Mrs. Chavez and we are thankful for the years she invested into our community.”
There is no word on when the medical malpractice lawsuit will move towards a trial or if the defendants will attempt to negotiate a settlement. The city will undoubtedly follow this case closely, as the Chavez family is dear to many in the Tampa area.