This is a sad tale about a lovely energetic 13 year old in Ontario, Canada. Her name is Sabrina. She is a high school freshman. High school in Ontario Canada begins in 8th Grade. She experiences a bus ride for the first time,. School is exciting and fun and new. She has never ridden a bus before. She walked to her neighbourhood school and came home to have safe lunches. What was different about this girl is that she was deathly allergic to milk, soy, and peanuts. She always ate at home, food prepared with great caution as minute amounts could lead to a fatal reaction.
Milk Soy and peanut allergies though common, the severity of the reaction, to exposure, to these offending ingredients is different in each individual. The same individual may experience differential reactions at different times. We all know that peanut allergies are unpredictable and that almost all processed food comes in contact with either nuts themselves or equipment that may have processed nuts.
So for Sabrina, her mom and dad were her lifeline, cooking her food and checking labels and trying to find substitutes for milk and soy and avoiding nuts. For four weeks of her high school she carries a sandwich made by her mom. Her mom- Sara-Shannon calls it safe food. But this day, Sabrina tells her mom she cannot have one more sandwich again. She says she had French fries at school and she has been fine. She says that she checked the ingredients list for milk, soy and nuts.
Her mom reluctantly agrees to let her eat at school. Sabrina tries the fries again, but this time her body reacts very differently. She begins to have trouble breathing, she rushes to the nurses office. She says she needs her inhaler, and assumes it an asthma attack. But she collapses within minutes of asking for an inhaler and passes out, the school administers CPR and calls for an ambulance. While Sabrina is fighting for her life, her friend walks her teacher to Sabrina’s open locker and they bring the epipen back.
An epipen is a single dose epinephrine injector, that comes in adult and junior doses for known cases of severe allergic reactions to common allergens like Shellfish, peanuts and milk or any other allergen that triggers the bodies immune response to mount a fatal attack against the offending allergen. It is by prescription only.
Though the epipen was administered to Sabrina, too much time had passed and she was unrevivable, Sabrina passed away soon after and this was 2003.. The coroner’s investigation found that the cafeteria fries Sabrina ate had been contaminated by cheese. Likely that the employee used the same tongs to serve fries as well as a cheese product served in school.
Sara Shannon and Mike Sahnnon were devastated, that their lovely thirteen year old had passed away. Sara Shannon decided that Sabrina’s death would not be forgotten and she started the campaign to formulate a law, that would allow Canadian schools to have food service personnel and nursing staff educated and trained in recognizing symptoms of a severe adverse reaction to food and being able to deliver an epipen in a timely manner, so lives can be saved. The law was passed unanimously May 16th ,2005 and since then has been used as a base here in the United States to enact laws in 19 states including California. The lobbying effort continues on and more school districts and states are enacting legislation to keep children safe.
Sabrinas law is a sad reminder that a 13 year old had to die for us to protect children like her in the United States. It was enacted in 2005 in Toronto.
Please read the conversation between Dr.Gupta and Mike and Sara-Shannon, Sabrinas parents.
Please support the lobbying efforts to help “Sabrinas law “ save lives.
If you or your friends have kids with life threatening allergies, please pass the word around that they are not alone in the fight and that there are resources in your local communities, that educate and train and help anyone who needs them.
For those of you who live in San Diego here is a link I thought may be useful.
If this article caught your attention, here are some links: