Food allergies. Unless you, your child, or someone else you love has them, perhaps you don’t think about them all that much. Or perhaps you do. With the first day of school fast-approaching, it’s time to start thinking about the nut-free lunches and snacks we might pack for our kids who have grown accustomed to peanut butter and hazelnut chocolate spread over the lazy summer months. Some of us may even be feeling a tad annoyed about the nut restrictions or may even lack a true understanding of why such school policies are in place. Well…let me tell you a story.
During March break of this year, Maia, the daughter of a dear friend of mine, dropped dead in Mapleview Mall in Burlington as a result of anaphylaxis from a food allergy. That is the bare, uncensored truth. A food allergy took her life. To put any beliefs to the contrary to rest, she did receive all appropriate and heroic measures possible that fateful day, including epinephrine. Valiant passersby, Halton paramedics and the emergency staff at Joseph Brant did absolutely everything to try to bring her back. It was not to be. Her beautiful, vivacious, 12 year-old heart stopped beating that day, never to start again.
In that one ridiculously tragic moment, a young, vibrant, amazing life ended. All the hopes and dreams her loving parents had for her; gone in the blink of an eye. A rare outcome, I’ll admit, but it happened. Although not an everyday thing, childhood deaths due to food allergies do happen, even with a shot of epinephrine. Don’t get me wrong, having epinephrine onsite at schools is an excellent and important thing, but it doesn’t guarantee that a life in peril will necessarily be saved.
I share this with you not only because I am still as wounded as I was day one about sweet Maia’s death, but because I need you to know the real reason why nut and other food-related restriction policies are in place in your child’s school.
So, the next time we shake our heads in annoyance that we can’t just send the easy and convenient peanut butter sandwich, let’s remember Maia and hope with all our hearts that nothing like this ever happens again. Safeguarding a child’s life is well worth the extra effort, don’t you think?
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About this blogger:
Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department. Wanna know more about her? Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)