Monday, September 16, 2013

This One Haunts Me

It’s not the first time we’ve heard about a tragic loss due to food allergies. We all know that any number greater than zero is too many. Yet, this one feels different. It pops into my head randomly during the day and keeps me awake at night.

It’s not the story of a first-time anaphylactic reaction where epinephrine wasn’t available. It’s not the story of a teen gone rogue and rebelliously challenging her food restrictions. It’s not the story of an epi-pen left at home while on vacation. This is a story where – by all accounts – everything was done right.

Natalie Giorgi took one bite of something she had eaten many times before – something she thought was a safe treat. This time it contained peanuts. She spit it out and alerted her parents who then gave her an antihistamine. Twenty minutes later, when she experienced the first symptoms of anaphylaxis, her father – a physician – gave her a shot of epinephrine. Then another. And another. Three doses of epinephrine were not enough to stop cardiac arrest in this beautiful thirteen-year-old.

We teach our children to look both ways when never crossing the street, to never get into the car with a drunk driver, and to always carry an epi-pen. In this case, even three epi-pens were not enough.

Of course we can ask the tough questions: If she had received epinephrine sooner, would it have made a difference? If she had been rushed to the hospital would the result have been different?

We have been taught that epinephrine save lives. And surely, that is usually the case. But what happens when epinephrine simply doesn’t work? Is it possible that a body can build up a tolerance to the drug? Or, that some of our immune systems have adapted to the point of not responding to it? How do we change the ending to this story?

I remain haunted.


Unknown said...

Colette, I feel the same way. Any story of food-allergy related death is tragic and heartbreaking. I too am haunte by this story. I think of it every morning when I drop my son at daycare, and many times throughout the day. Thank you for sharing your feelings as well.

Anonymous said...

I am haunted by it as well. At the same time when I discussed this with my children, I emphasized this is why we don't eat it, if we can't read it. The emergency kit is a back up. It isn't 100 % effective. The most important thing isn't to always carry your epipen. That is the second most important thing. The most important thing is to only eat foods that you have checked the ingredient list or asked the person who made it about the ingredients and if they aren't sure, you can't eat it. Even at restaurants only if they are confident and competent about their menu items and ingredients will we eat there, if they don't seem knowledgeable or certain, we go elsewhere. At people's houses they have shown me their recipe or shown me the containers and bags for what they used so I could check ingredients, we don't eat it unless we are confident it doesn't contain the allergen. We can't tell by looking at it, we have to check ingredients first. We bring our own food so we aren't stuck or limited. My daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and nuts. My son is severely allergic to peanuts, nuts, milk, egg, wheat.
I have been drilling this into them for years and did again after seeing this recent death in the news. Because that is exactly what my fear is, that they or their teacher will get lax about checking ingredients thinking as long as they have their Benadryl and epipen they will be fine.

Anonymous said...

P.s. Last year my daughter was so upset at an end of he year party because she couldn't have a homemade cookie at the party. Their were other foods items here that were in the package that we checked and she ate, another item that was homemade but we were able to ask the person who made it if she used anything peanut or nuts , that my daughter was allergic but oh that plat of cookies that was unidentifiable! It looked like chocolate chip, but I explained that it wasn't packaged and the person who made it wasn't there to ask so she could not eat it. She sulked. But got over it. My son ate his own complete meal from his lunch box without even looking at the tables of food . He brings his own food everywhere we go and on occasion if there is one or two things that turn out to be safe for him to eat, he will eat it as a complement to what he brought . But that doesn't happen very often due to multiple allergies. Not often do we find something free of everything he is allergic to!