This week is food allergy awareness week. Life-threatening allergic reactions to foods have increased by five times over the last decade, according to an analysis of private insurance claims by FAIR Health, an independent nonprofit that collects and analyzes data on privately billed health insurance claims.
For twelve years, we’ve been telling the stories of families who have lost their children to this life-threatening condition. It was twelve years ago, this week, that we launched AllergyKids. A few days before the site went live, we heard from a father who had just lost his 13 year old girl. These deaths are preventable, and every time I meet with these parents, my heart breaks even further. Again, these deaths are preventable, and these parents have suffered such incredible and unnecessary losses.
For the month of May, we are running four stories, and few have impacted us like that of Oakley Debbs. I recently met his amazing mom and dad at an event for End Allergies Together. Their strength is phenomenal, their love so fierce. We recently put together this Q&A.
Please take the time to read it and share it. Every child counts, and we have to stand together to say #NotOneMore.
Q. Your amazing boy was an athlete. Like many kids with allergies, he also had asthma. The reactions can very much look the same in the beginning. How can we know what we are looking at? What signs would you now look for?
Yes Oakley was an amazing Athlete. He excelled in almost any sport he tried. Oakley’s favorite sports were soccer, flag football, tennis, swimming , skiing, boogie boarding etc. Its hard for me to say what I would look for now if Oakley had an anaphylactic reaction. The symptoms we saw that night was a stomach ache and vomiting of clear liquid. I would recommend epinephrine way before any symptoms occurred. If you know an allergen has been ingested I would be proactive and not wait for any symptoms it might be to late by then.
Q. You brought to my attention that the ambulance did not have an EpiPen in it when it arrived for Oakley. Those seconds matter so much, and as a mother, it is shocking that this is the case in light of how many children and adults now have food allergies. What advice would you give to parents waiting for the ambulance?
Actually the ambulance did have epinephrine. The first responder was a policeman and he was completely ill prepared to deal with any life threatening situations. The policeman didn’t even do CPR to Oakley. My mother in law did it. My advice is when you call 911 administer the Epinephrine right away and let 911 know that the epinephrine has been administered.
Q. Oakley has a sister that is now without her brother. When we talk about these children, we often forget that there are siblings whose lives are also forever changed. What has been the most help to your daughter through this?
Olivia says she struggles every day with the loss of her twin brother. Nothing really helps except for keeping her super busy. Olivia is excelling in sports all varsity this year and she has achieved first honors as well. Olivia relies a lot on her friends and Oakley’s best friends spend time with her too.
Q. Talk to us about the Red Sneakers!
Red Sneakers for Oakley:
Red sneakers were my son’s, Oakley Gage Debbs, favorite shoes to wear. Red Sneakers for Oakley Is a food allergy awareness organization. We provide education awareness programs for the schools. Some of our goals are to change the laws, provide Epipens or other auto injectors next to defibrillators in institutions throughout America and around the world.
We encourage mindfulness for allergy families by the simple act of wearing RED SNEAKERS and posting it on social media to help spread awareness. We ask schools to host a red sneakers day which basically is a dress down day by wearing red sneakers, or red shoe laces, shirts etc. as long as it is red.
RSFO has a website, redsneakers.org. There’s lots of information on our website.we are partnering with other organizations as well.
Q. What one thing does your family want to see changed to honor Oakley’s legacy?
My family would like to have a Law: THE OAKLEY LAW. All institutions and first responders should have epinephrine auto injectors and they should be trained in understanding and recognizing anaphylactic.