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Father of coma victim describes ‘hellish’ ordeal


The father of a 24-year-old Hilo woman who has been in a coma since going into cardiac arrest during a dental procedure on March 17 described his life since then as “a living hell.”

Joe Tavares, father of Kristen Tavares, told Stephens Media Hawaii Thursday there are “so much rumors going around” about his daughter, who is still hospitalized at Maui Memorial Medical Center, and he wants “to set the record straight.”

“She’s in a semi-coma at this time, which means she’s breathing on her own but (she’s) not responsive,” Tavares said. “Her eyes will open up from time to time, just like when you’re sleeping. You have these sleeping modes and wake-up modes.” The young woman no longer needs the respirator she was on but is still being fed through tubes.

Kristen Tavares, who was 23 when the incident occurred, was in the process of having all four wisdom teeth extracted at the Hilo office of Dr. John Stover when she went into cardiac arrest. A defibrillator was reportedly used when she became unresponsive. She was taken to Hilo Medical Center and transferred to Maui because The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu had no room for the young mother of two sons: Krisjen, 4, and Gage, 4 months.

“Kristen’s mom, Diana (Pulgados), has been with her from day one,” Joe Tavares said. “It’s hard to look at your daughter just lying there. … We believe in faith and we have faith that she will wake up. She is in a semi-coma but I want her to wake up completely where she can recognize us, talk to us, things of that nature.”

“They said this is how she might be. They didn’t think she would be able to come out of this or anything, but with all of the prayers and all of the support and my daughter’s fighting, she’s come a long way,” Tavares added.

Kristen Tavares graduated from the Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Academy in 2006 and went to work for the Umauma Experience zip-line. She quit her job to become a stay-at-home mom who took care of her own children and her disabled older brother, Justin, her father said.

“She’s an outgoing person. She likes the ocean. She took her kids there. She was just starting her life with her second child. Her and her boyfriend (Gage’s father, Chauncey Prudencio) were making a family room. She was preparing a whole family area,” Joe Tavares said.

Joe Tavares took about a month off his job as operations manager for Aloha Security and is still flying back to Maui when he can to be near his daughter. He and Pulgados have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Stover, who is licensed as both a physician and dentist.

“I was in a daze in the beginning,” he said. “After that, I see his picture over and over. I cannot stand the guy. I just can’t describe exactly how I feel.”

Kristen Tavares’ plight received national media attention and complaints to state regulators against Stover began to mount, with 16 as of Thursday. Stover closed all three of his Big Island offices two weeks ago and reportedly struck a deal with the state to voluntarily surrender his medical and dental licenses.

“I tell everybody a father should protect his daughter but I can’t do anything right now,” Joe Tavares said. “We’re just going day by day and hoping everything will get better.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.