Requiem for Andrea & Simon (and Ben & Curt)
We are reminded once again of the importance of carrying Epi-PensTM and other medications with you at all times if you have a life-threatening illness. Two young teenagers died recently because they did not have their epinephrine auto-injectors with them during an anaphylaxis attack. Our founder, Jon Terry, also presents some alarming statistics on the low percentage of people of all ages who are not keeping their EAI devices nearby or not using them when they should. Read the full article here.
By Jon Terry
October 10th, 2015
During September two young people with life-threatening food allergies died from anaphylaxis. Here are excerpts from the news reports I read on the internet.
Andrea Mariano, 18, who had just begun studying arts and sciences at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, passed away on Sept. 18, 2015 following a severe reaction. Andrea’s grieving family, who live in Thornhill, Ontario, said the cause of death was anaphylaxis. Andrea had known peanut and dairy allergies.
Hedellaine Valentin, Andrea’s cousin, told Global-TV News that the reaction happened after the young woman ordered a smoothie on campus. The teen was not carrying either of her two epinephrine auto-injectors, according to Valentin. The report also suggested that her reaction was so severe epinephrine would not have made a difference.
Simon Katz had no idea that the s'more passed to him Monday night at a Chatfield High School homecoming bonfire was made with peanut butter.
The 16-year-old junior, who was allergic to peanuts, took a bite, became ill, went into anaphylactic shock and died, his father, David, said Wednesday.
Simon had mistakenly eaten peanuts in the past, his father said in a phone interview, but "those incidents ended with an emergency room visit, some epinephrine and he was good to go." Simon became sick after eating the s'more, and his friends drove him home to get medicine. "I put him in my car," David Katz said, "and tried to get him to urgent care." The teenager went into shock during the six-minute drive, his father said, adding that he was administering epinephrine injections to Simon during the drive.
As the member of a family who lost a loved one to a fatal attack of anaphylaxis, I am always deeply saddened when I hear about these tragedies. What makes them even more upsetting is when they happen due to a delay in administration of epinephrine.
Ever since these two tragic deaths for some reason or other the quotations of Benjamin Franklin have been on my mind. Many of his words and phrases have as much clarity and wisdom in the 21st century as they did when he was a leader of the American revolution at the end of the 18th century. Here a few I find particularly meaningful:
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.
Well done is better than well said.
Fish and visitors smell in three days.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac, 1738
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)
And here is one that I was unfamiliar with and just found out about:
A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
In other words, when my conscience is clear, then I have peace of mind. I believe these are words to live by. I think that applies very well when it comes to taking medications. If I neglect to take mine every day then I find myself feeling guilty, as if I have done myself a disservice. I get a sinking feeling that my irresponsible behavior may come back to haunt me later.
Perhaps instead of following the advice of Franklin I was taking a page from the lyrics of Curt Cobain:
And I forget just why I taste
Oh yeah, I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard, it's hard to find
Oh well, whatever, never mind
'Smells Like Team Spirit'
Curt Cobain and Nirvana
Oh, well, whatever, never mind…
This attitude is one that I am personally very familiar with. Apathy, complacency and indifference pretty well sum up the meaning of that phrase for yours truly. I have to constantly resist the urge to blow things off, to act irresponsibly, and to act like a slacker in so many areas of my life. Not exactly a mature attitude I must confess. No doubt I might do a lot better.
My health is good, thank God, and I am fortunate that I do not have any chronic illnesses to deal with. However, as the founder of the Allergy Advocacy Association my concerns center on individuals at risk for anaphylaxis, particularly people with life-threatening allergies.
Our association is dedicated to supporting programs helping in the prevention of anaphylaxis through AWARENESS, ALERTNESS & ACTION. We participate in many kinds of public outreach events including exhibiting at health fairs. When people stop by our exhibit booth I try to engage them in a conversation for possibility. People don't know what they don't know and if you are at risk for anaphylaxis that can be dangerous.
The routine I follow goes something like this. I request they sign one of our legislative petitions; I offer to demonstrate how an epinephrine auto injector device works; And I ask them a couple of questions. "Do you have any family members with life-threatening allergies? Do you have asthma? Diabetes?”
I leave the most important question for last.
"Are you carrying your prescribed medications today?"
And all too often they say "NO, I DON'T HAVE THEM WITH ME."
Frankly, I find this very distressing.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America there are alarming patterns of inaction when anaphylaxis occurs: most patients are not keeping their EAI devices nearby or not using them when they should. A survey of the school systems in the state of Virginia showed that only 24% of the students with prescriptions for epinephrine actually had EAI devices. In a 2012 survey conducted in Canada by Sanofi Pharmaceuticals, out of 2,000 individuals with family members having life-threatening allergies, 57% of all respondents with a prescription do NOT always carry an epinephrine auto-injector as recommended by physicians. By group, 63% of adults and 51% of parents did NOT have an auto-injector immediately available at all times. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that eighty-eight percent of the deaths from anaphylaxis show significant delays or failure to administer epinephrine in a timely fashion.
It is not my intention to criticize the actions of Andrea and Simon or to trivialize their deaths in any way. Their families have had more than enough grief and heartache already. I am not here to praise Ben or condemn Curt (may they both rest in peace).
I just think that in this instance we all need to listen to Franklin, not to Cobain.
A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
I sincerely believe that people must heed the voice of their conscience and take positive action to protect their own lives. The Allergy Advocacy Association recommends that anyone with asthma, diabetes, life-threatening allergies or any combination thereof always wear a Medic Alert bracelet or dog-tag and ALWAYS carry ALL of their medications EVERYWHERE.