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Young Life Lost Needlessly to Food Allergy
January 11, 2012
Little Ammaria Johnson was allergic to peanuts. The 7-year-old student at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield, Virginia, died last week after ingesting the allergen and suffering an anaphylactic reaction.
What a loss.
What a waste.
What a tragedy.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about Ammaria’s mother and family. As a parent, my heart goes out to them. I also know this death strikes absolute terror in the hearts of all parents of food-allergic children. Speaking on behalf of the Living Without team, we are heart broken and send the family our deepest condolences. It makes us more determined than ever to get the word out about food allergies.
Here’s the tragedy: Ammaria’s allergic reaction could have been easily treated with a simple dose of injected epinephrine. She would likely be alive today if the school had acted swiftly and administered this highly effective but otherwise harmless drug. Why the school didn’t use an EpiPen to address Ammaria’s symptoms is being debated.
Here in Virginia where I live--about 90 miles west of Ammaria’s elementary school in Chesterfield County--there’s no standardized policy for schools in terms of how to handle food allergies, who’s watching the kids for allergen contamination, who keeps the medicines, who can administer them, etc. Every school district has its own way of dealing (or sadly, not dealing). It often--too often!--takes direct and deliberate action by the parents of food-allergic children to effect positive change. Moms and dads must become advocates for their kids’ safety before school officials take things seriously.
We’ve been saying all along that a food allergy is serious business. It can be life threatening—as it was in this terrible instance. That’s why the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (S. 1884/HR. 3627) was recently introduced on Capitol Hill. This federal legislation, promoted by FAAN (The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network), would encourage states to require schools to stock self-injected epinephrine that could be used on any student having an allergic reaction. For more about this bill, go to foodallergy.org.
Perhaps Ammaria’s needless death will push lawmakers to pass this bill and make a difference for all food-allergic kids. If you feel strongly about this (as we do), please let your Congressperson know. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with the Johnson family.