The parents of three-year-old Elijah-Alavi were devasted by the loss of their son. While at preschool, Elijah, who had food allergies including dairy, was mistakenly given a grilled cheese sandwich. He suffered a fatal attack of anaphylaxis. From that tragedy Elijah’s parents embarked on a path of advocacy and education, so that other parents wouldn’t have to experience the same heartbreak. They founded the Elijah-Alavi Foundation, which includes “Elijah's Echo,” an initiative raising awareness of food allergies and anaphylaxis. The Allergy Advocacy Association worked closely with his parents on the successful passage of Elijah's Law in September 2019. This law provides the framework to establish guidelines for daycare providers for the prevention of and response to anaphylaxis.
Silvera Family Raises Awareness of Food Allergies in Childcare Facilities
By Kristen Stewart
June 8th, 2020
It's just one little word, only three letters long, but it still has the power to break the heart of Thomas Silvera every time he uses it in reference to his son Elijah-Alavi who passed away at the age of three after an anaphylactic reaction.
"I think about the world of potential before him," says Thomas. "I think about his bright spirit that so many were robbed of experiencing. I think about his smile. I think about his best friend, brother, and my eldest son Sebi, and the life that they will no longer have together as a dynamic duo."
November 3, 2017 began like any other day with Elijah going to preschool in New York City. He had food allergies including dairy as well as asthma so the school had written and verbal instructions including asthma and food allergy action plans and his doctor's instructions about symptoms to look out for. Thomas and his wife Dina Hawthorne-Silvera had also given the school a list of foods Elijah should not be fed.
Despite these many precautions, on that day Elijah was given a grilled cheese sandwich. To make matters worse school personnel did not tell Elijah's mother what he had eaten and only said he was having an asthma attack. School personnel didn’t call 911 and didn’t administer epinephrine.
Thomas and Dina were devastated but also inspired to make a difference. "I think about how the moment where his life ended was also the moment that my life, quite literally, changed forever," says Thomas. "For my wife and I, the way this was, was us coming up from our grief deciding that Eli's life would be used to change law, policies, and practices." In short, they don’t want any other families to experience what they went through.