Sadly, this month we must once again report the death of a teenager due to anaphylaxis. In memory of his son Simon, David Katz wants to remind everyone that immediate action can mean the difference between life and death. If you think someone may be having a serious allergic reaction and an epi-pen is available, don’t rely on just Benadryl, don’t drive to Urgent Care or the emergency room, and don’t wait for an ambulance before you administer epinephrine. When in doubt, get it out!
David Katz Shares His Son’s Story
By Kristen Stewart
February 11th, 2016
Most everyone wishes at one time or another they could turn the clock back and change the past—but few feel it as keenly as David Katz, whose 16-year-old son Simon passed away last September from a severe allergic reaction.
The family had known about Simon’s allergies since he was an infant. They had weathered a few scares through the years when he had inadvertently eaten foods that contained peanuts. His reactions were successfully managed by prompt medical care and the administration of epinephrine and steroids. Simon hadn’t had any substantial allergic episodes since before he was ten years old.
Simon always carried his Epi-Pen first in his backpack and then later in the glove compartment of his car once he started driving. He knew his health situation was serious and what he needed to do. What he didn’t realize was how important every single second is when having an anaphylactic reaction.
“When he was younger he sought help as soon as he was aware he had eaten something with peanuts,” says David. “On the night he died he was aware—but somehow underestimated how much and how fast he needed help. Had he been better educated about other fatal cases, and not just thinking about his own experiences, I believe he might have made better choices during the most critical moments.”
The day had started routinely enough. Simon had gone to school and to an extracurricular activity before coming home and telling his father he wanted to go to the homecoming bonfire. It was there that a friend offered him part of a s’more from a bake sale table. Expecting the traditional chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker combination, he ate some before realizing it was actually made with a peanut butter cup.
David says that Simon knew there was a problem but likely didn’t realize how serious it was. He had gone to the bonfire in his friend’s car so he didn’t have his Epi-Pen handy. According to his friends, he insisted he would be alright, went into the school to throw up, but when he returned he still wasn’t looking well. After some pressure from his friends he asked that they drive him home so he could get medicine.
David was there when they arrived and realized immediately what was wrong, but didn’t know much at all about when Simon had eaten peanuts. He quickly grabbed a handful of Epi-Pens and got Simon in the car for a fast trip to the urgent care center that was only a mile or two away.
During the drive, however, things quickly went from bad to worse. Simon began to have trouble breathing and David tried to inject him with the Epi-Pens and also called 911 while driving to the urgent care center. By the time they arrived Simon was struggling even more. David yelled for help while doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The staff wheeled him inside and went to work until eventually he was taken by ambulance to the local hospital. Simon passed away that night.
Now his family grieves…and wonders what if.
What if Simon’s Mother’s years-long attempts to get his schools to go peanut-free had been successful? Would that have meant no peanut butter s’more at the bonfire?
What if Simon had gotten faster access to epinephrine either with his own Epi-Pen or by asking for medical attention at the bonfire (there were EMTs present)?
What if 911 had been called sooner? Or what if he’d gotten to the hospital which was better equipped to deal with an emergency like this faster?
“It was just the perfect storm - a terrible sequence of events,” David says. “It’s been four-and-a-half months and I still can’t believe it.”
In between these times of disbelief, however, David tries to focus on what he does know. He remembers his son as a happy and fun-loving boy and young man. He loved Music – writing and playing with many fellow artists. He primarily wrote, recorded and performed with “Boats Without Oars,” his band of more than two years. He more recently had a passion for Theatre, and cherished his role in the High School Program. He was planning to pursue Performing Arts in college.
David also looks to the future, searching for ways to bring some sort of meaning to his loss. He believes so much of teens’ decisions are based on what their friends are thinking rather than what their parents would say—and that this phenomenon played a part in Simon’s actions the night of his death. David hopes that by sharing Simon’s story with others, particularly teens, he can help them realize allergic reactions can be life-threatening and treatment should always be sought immediately.