Friday, September 14, 2012

This Blog Could Save a Life

Okay, maybe this title is quite a bit of hyperbole. But then again, maybe not.

Most of you know me as the author of Codename: Dancer and Pointe of No Return. (Hey, look! I now have a two-book boxed set out...makes a great gift for teens!)

If you've been reading my series, you know that my main character Dani has a food allergy. She's anaphylactic to peanuts, and carries an emergency epinephrine injection, or EpiPen.
And yes, she's had to use it.

When I wrote the first draft of Codename, I'll admit that I knew nothing about food allergies, and it was merely a convenient plot device. Something that had been in the news a lot lately, and an interesting way to create a sense of danger for my heroine.

It wasn't until two months after Codename was first released that it became personal. My convenient plot device turns out not to be all that convenient. And I got a first-hand education into all things food allergy.

Turns out, I'm also a food allergy mom.

Meet Amber and Alex. Amber is anaphylactic to tree nuts and sesame, and reactant to egg and peanut. Alex has a rice intolerance. We're crossing our fingers that's all he has in the way of allergies or intolerances, but we really have no idea since we've been avoiding foods with Amber's allergens. (We suspect he may have at least an egg allergy, however, since he threw up the time I mistakenly fed him a jar of baby food that contained egg.)
Like Dani from my series, we carry an EpiPen for Amber. When she's older, she'll carry one for herself. We also keep a set of EpiPens at her preschool.
If Amber were to mistakenly ingest tree nuts or sesame, she could have a serious allergic reaction that can result in vomiting, asphyxiation, unconsciousness and death. Roughly six million children in the U.S. are food-allergic, with many of them at risk of developing anaphylaxis (a life threatening allergic reaction) when they ingest or simply come in contact with an allergen. The treatment of choice for anaphylaxis is epinephrine which must be administered immediately, often by auto-injector.
Studies have shown that as many as 25% of epinephrine injections administered at schools are given to children who have had no prior history of food allergy and as such do not have prescriptions for epinephrine. There are also situations where a child suffering an anaphylactic reaction requires a second dose of epinephrine but their school-held supply only provides for a single dose.
In January, 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson from Chesterfield, VA tragically died at her elementary school after an apparent allergic reaction to something she ate. A 911 call was placed at 2:26 pm, and by the time paramedics arrived at the school shortly afterwards, she was already in cardiac arrest. Her mother told the local CBS affiliate that Ammaria had a peanut allergy, but that the school had declined to accept an EpiPen on her behalf that fall.
Ammaria's tragic death may have been avoidable if the school had a stock of emergency epinephrine on hand. Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would provide states incentives to allow their schools to stock epinephrine and administer doses when necessary. 
Following Ammaria's tragic death, Virginia passed a law enabling schools to stock emergency doses of epinephrine and indemnifying trained individuals from liability when administering epinephrine in good faith. School has been in session for less than two weeks in much of the state, and yet the law may have already saved at least one life.
WTVR reports that a 15-year-old from Prince George County was riding the school bus last Friday when he began experiencing symptoms of anaphylaxis as the result of a bee sting. Prince George County Schools Health Services Coordinator Teresa Isom received a call that the student was in distress and realized the bus was in her vicinity. She grabbed a pack of EpiPens and raced to the bus.
Isom administered two doses of epinephrine before the ambulance arrived to take the student to the hospital. The second dose was administered as directed after the first failed to relieve his symptoms. The student appears to be severly allergic to bee stings, an allergy of which he was unaware, but  Isom’s training, quick response, and her access to epinephrine as a result of Virginia's law may have saved his life.
But because the student didn't have a valid epinephrine prescription or his own supply at the school, if this event had occured in some other state without a law enabling schools to stock emergency epinephrine, it may have had a different outcome. I encourage you to contact your congressional representatives in support of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.

And please encourage your school system to participate in the EpiPens4Schools program, offered by Mylan, the distributor of EpiPen and EpiPen Jr. This unique program allows qualified schools to obtain four (4) epinephrine auto-injectors at no cost.

All children deserve to be safe at school.


Jenn said...

Poor Ammaria. This is so sad, especially since it was fully preventable. I'm glad the law was passed. Good health to all who suffer allergies.

Dragonsaver said...

I am pleased to hear that Virginia has provided for liability projection for this brave action and I will post this story on my webpage called The Good Samaritan Law Project, which shows how our antiquated laws which dont protect the Good Samaritan are causing Americans to shun helping others. That is not who we are and we need to change these laws.