Food Allergy Parent to a Child and Teen with Food Allergies
I am a mom of a food allergy child. Stetson had his first reaction at about 9 months old. He later had his first anaphylactic reaction at about 18 months old in 2009. He is now a teen living a full life with peanut and shellfish allergy.
Millions of Americans with Food Allergies
There are 32 Million Americans with food allergies. 5.6 Million are children.
Living with Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis
Living with a food allergy is not only a daily task to keep ones self safe from a life threatening anaphylactic reaction, it is moment by moment.
Food Centered Society and Day to Day Life
Our society revolves around food. Not only breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, but holidays, parties, get togethers, play dates, and more.
It is not just food. It is products, surfaces and for some airborne.
While many can avoid their allergen navigating daily life. We are all subject to accidental exposure. For many they might be able to use life-saving epinephrine and survive. For others, it is not enough and tragically lose their life.
The Story of Oakley Debbs and Red Sneakers for Oakley Non-Profit Organization
Gap in Proper Education Between Healthcare and Patients During Diagnosis and Ongoing Care
One such tragic loss of life is that of Oakley Debbs. Oakley was a young pre-teen in Florida that enjoyed flag football, tennis and soccer, and was loved by many. Oakley was diagnosed with a “mild allergy”, and had doctors that didn’t properly educate Oakley or his family on proper food allergy care and protocol. Unfortunately, lack of proper education from diagnosis to daily life is a huge gap in the medical community, and there is a need to bridge this gap.
Oakley also managed asthma, and did have a care plan, but it was only focused on asthma, not on how to properly manage anaphylaxis. From Red Sneakers for Oakley’s website, “Oakley’s doctors never emphasized the importance of using epinephrine. Because of this, the Debbs were ill-prepared to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis, an acute multi-organ life-threatening reaction to allergens. In fact, the first time the Debbs family heard the word “anaphylaxis” was in the emergency room on Oakley’s final night.”
In 2016, Oakley and his family were spending Thanksgiving together. The evening of Thanksgiving, after a fun filled day with family, he ate a piece of cake that contained either nut extract, or nuts.
Oakley immediately realized something was not right, as did his mother. He showed no other signs other than his own realization something was amiss, and a hive on his lip. Based on this he received a Benadryl in pill form. The hive went away, Oakley continued to play and enjoy family. He even began to get ready for bed, but started to feel chest pain. He told his mother, and while checking him for signs and symptoms, noticed his breathing was fine.
Shortly after ingestion and accidental exposure, Oakley again returned to his parents due to a stomach ache, and began vomiting. After vomiting, he seemed to have relief and thought to feel better. It was not so, he vomited again. This time his breathing also began to deteriorate. Things progressed quickly, and upon calling 9-1-1, and medics responding, tragically Oakley suffered a heart attack and was not breathing.
Oakley was taken to the hospital, remained on a ventilator for several days, but ended up dying there at the hospital.
For the Debb’s family, the greatest heartbreak came from never knowing that epinephrine could have saved Oakley’s life.
Turning Tragedy into a Philanthropic Legacy
That heartbreak turned into Red Sneakers for Oakley, a 501c3 non-profit organization that strives to bridge the gap in the food allergy community. That same gap that led to the tragic loss of life of their sweet Oakley.
Oakley loved red sneakers, and had received a pair as an early Christmas present from his mother the day of his passing. His family decided to use the symbol of his favorite sneakers, to serve the great purpose of bringing much needed education and awareness to food allergies.
While tragic, Oakley’s story does not end with his death. The Debbs family honors Oakley’s life each day, through Red Sneakers for Oakley. “The mission of the nonprofit 501c3 organization is grounded in the sense that education is desperately needed between allergists, hospitals, first-responders, parents, schools, and the general public”, (Red Sneakers for Oakley, 2021).
Red Sneakers for Oakley Ambassador
As a fellow mother of a child with life-threatening food allergies, I have chosen to team up with Red Sneakers for Oakley, as an ambassador for their organization. You can do this as well. All the information to do so is on their website, www.redsneakers.org. In doing so, you agree to help inspire, educate, and empower others to understand the physical and social aspects of living a life with food allergies. You teach others how to take action during an anaphylactic reaction, advocate for safety, inclusion and acceptance.
I will hold several fundraisers for Red Sneakers for Oakley organization throughout the year, so be on the look out for those opportunities to give to this wonderful organization so that we might save even one life from ending tragically, needlessly, and sadly as Oakley’s did.