Tuesday, August 14, 2018
News Roundup

Lawsuit alleges doctors misdiagnosed former Tampa councilwoman Helen Chavez before her 2014 death

TAMPA — The daughter of the late Helen Chavez, a Tampa restaurateur and former city council member, is suing the doctors who treated her mother just before her 2014 death, alleging they failed to adequately diagnose a life-threatening heart condition.

Denise Chavez filed the lawsuit last week in Hillsborough Circuit Court. It alleges that Dr. Christine Torres and Kimberly Gore, a physician assistant, were negligent in their assessment and treatment of a skin condition Helen Chavez exhibited shortly before her death.

On July 23, 2014, Helen Chavez visited Torres and Gore at a South Tampa medical office. She complained of a swelling of the skin of her lips, known as angioedema, and a reddening and irritation inside her mouth, known as erythema, according to the complaint.

The doctors knew that Chavez had been prescribed Rampiril, a medication used to treat high blood pressure. They also knew that angioedema and erythema were among the drug's side effects, according to the complaint.

Nevertheless, the complaint states, the doctors diagnosed Chavez' condition as an allergic reaction, likely to mangos or salmon. They sent her home with a prescription for Benadryl without telling her to stop taking the Rampiril, according to the complaint.

The same day, Chavez' condition worsened. Emergency personnel later rushed her to Tampa General Hospital, where she was admitted to the intensive care unit.

A week later, Chavez was still hospitalized. A cardiologist told her family that she was suffering from congestive heart failure made worse by the angioedema.

On Aug. 2, Chavez was sent home. That morning, she died. She was 89.

The lawsuit alleges that Torres and Gore should have recognized Chavez' condition as a side effect of the medication but failed to do so. The medical practice for which they work, GMS Bayside Physicians, is named as a co-defendant in the complaint.

A receptionist who answered the phone at the South Tampa practice Tuesday said Torres was away on medical leave and had not visited the clinic in two years. She could not be reached elsewhere. Gore did not immediately return a call for comment.

Helen Chavez served as a Republican member of the Tampa City Council from 1979 to 1987. As an elected official, she was known for championing historic preservation, the revival of Hyde Park and efforts to tone down fan misconduct at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

She ran for mayor in 1987 but lost to Sandy Freedman. She tried to return to the city council in 1995 but lost to current Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

As a businesswoman, she ran several popular Tampa restaurants, including Royal, Chavez Windows on the Park, and the Tea Room in Old Hyde Park.

Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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