Not only do stories like the following break my heart, they absolutely terrify me. I spend a lot of time speaking with parents of kids with and without severe allergies, trying to bridge the gap of education between us. Parents who don't have an allergic child often really can't seem to comprehend that death is a real threat to some people. People feel we're inconveniencing them because our kids are the reason lunches are a challenge to pack; they think we're overprotective because we've got that allergy paranoia.
Natalie Giorgi, a 13-year old California girl, had life-threatening allergies, and was a diligent, careful kid. She read labels, she turned down foods that she wasn't sure about, her entire family was well-educated in how to protect her. She had everything going for her, all the odds in her favour and you know what? She died because she took a small bite of a rice cereal treat that had peanuts in it.
The very moment the treat touched her tongue, she spat it out, knowing that it contained a deadly allergen. Moments later, despite feeling fine at first, she started vomiting. Her parents administered Benadryl and three EpiPens—devices meant to slow or stop anaphylactic allergic reactions—and still, Natalie died. Her throat swelled and closed, and her young life was extinguished because of such a small exposure to peanuts. I can't even wrap my head around this. I can't even imagine this happening to my sweet little nut-allergic son.
Now Georgi's parents are speaking out, trying to educate everyone on the very real threat allergens have on peoples' lives, and to "convince skeptical parents that food allergies in children is [sic] very real." Why do we have to "convince" people? The fact that my son carries an EpiPen is proof enough that peanuts can kill him; what more do parents need to understand this?
I urge you to listen to Health Canada and be a compassionate person. Open a dialogue about allergies, even if you don't have to deal with them in your house. Find out which foods your school has had to ban to save the life of a student, and pack appropriate lunches this year. Don't let Natalie Georgi's death be in vain.