Food allergies can, sadly, have a tragic end if close attention isn’t paid to every item’s ingredients. Unfortunately, one family discovered this during the Thanksgiving holiday last year, when Oakley Debbs, a Florida boy was just 11 years old, passed away after eating a dessert. Oakley was a star student and athlete who suffered from asthma and allergies.
While vacationing with his family, relatives ordered a gift basket that had a holiday ham but also a pound cake for dessert.
Liftable.com reports that Merrill Debbs, Oakley’s mother, explained, “We didn’t even see the cake; it had just been opened up and set on the island of the kitchen.”
While Oakley had a peanut and tree nut allergy, he didn’t see any signs of nuts in the dessert and ate a slice.
His father, Robert Debbs, explained, “He thought it was just a piece of cake,” adding, “But when he ate it, he come over and said it might have contained nuts.”
Robert further explained,
“Merrill did what we usually do, she gave him Benadryl [pills] and he came back and said he felt fine.”
Oakley only had a single hive on his lip initially, but later experienced chest pains and, fifteen minutes later, began vomiting. Merrill noted,
“He started throwing up and from there it was a tornado of issues. We called 911. By the time the ambulance got there – about 10 minutes later – he was blue.”
Oakley experienced a fatal reaction, with his heart stopping and airwaves closing within an hour and a half of eating the cake.
The family had an EpiPen but didn’t know the signs and symptoms for using it. Further, they had been told that Oakley’s nut allergies were mild and that he only needed antihistamines to treat symptoms.
The EMTs arrived and gave him two successive doses of epinephrine, but the boy was officially pronounced dead four days later in the hospital.
“I wasn’t aware, no one told me” about epinephrine being the first-line drug for anaphylaxis.
To honor Oakley’s memory, family and friends wear red sneakers to raise awareness and educate others, with his family starting the Red Sneaker Foundation to help others who don’t know the symptoms and treatment for allergies.
Merrill noted, “I don’t think my beautiful, amazing, talented, adorable son should have passed away.” She added, “The child of mine, he was a rock star, he was a good, good kid. And always in my heart of hearts, I knew that he would make a difference in his life – I just didn’t know it would be after he passed away. So that’s a big part of my driving force – the legacy of Oakley.”
In a Facebook post, the family shared:
“Oakley was a brave and strong warrior in the battle against the diseases of asthma and nut allergies. We ask that you, too, become a warrior in this battle by raising awareness about the dangers of asthma and nut allergies, so that Oakley’s legacy can be a world without such tragedies.”
The Food Allergy Research & Education site provides a free Emergency Care Plan to review with your doctor to better know what to do in the case of an allergic reaction.