A Tragic Loss of a Child with Food Allergies: Amarrie Johnson

On January 2, 2012, 7-year-old Amarrie Johnson from Chesterfield Virginia, ingested one of her food allergens (peanut) while at her school and died.

When I first learned of this tragedy…I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.

Details regarding all the specifics have not been shared with the public. It is these specific details that led up to the death of Amarrie that are the pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together.

As a parent with two boys with multiple food allergies, I want…need answers. Why did this happen?

Read about her story here and here.

In the year 2012, with all the knowledge and medication that is out there…a death of a child with a food allergies should be preventable.

Words cannot describe how I feel…I am at a loss… I sit here at my computer trying to sort through my feelings…it is any parents’ worst nightmare.

I am feeling sad…the loss of a child is a tragedy…the family must be devastated.

I am feeling confused…was an emergency plan for her not established…why was  medication not administered to her…what type of awareness among staff and students was there in regards to students with food allergies at the school?

I am feeling angry…how many children must die before society takes food allergies seriously?

As a parent of two boys with multiple food allergies, I understand full well the need to educate both staff and students, in our schools, in the signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction and how to administer an epi pen.

Knowledge is power…knowledge can save lives.

Read my Grade 8 presentation experience with my youngest son’s classroom here. Read my back to school experience for my eldest son to high school here.

The safety of all children should be paramount in all schools. Accidents happen…that is why children with food allergies need emergency plans in place.

In Ontario, where I live, we have Sabrina’s Law. On January 1 , 2006, all schools in Ontario were required by law, to have policies and procedures for those children with food allergies and all staff to be trained in the administration of the epi pen.

Sabrina Shannon died from an anaphylactic reaction to dairy at her school. Her name and story lives on with Sabrina’s Law. Read her story here.

Click here for a list of Canadian and U.S. Anaphylaxis Laws Guidelines.

If there is one thing I have learned through my journey with food allergies, eczema and asthma with my boys…never assume!

I have learned to be an advocate for my boys’ safety…being proactive…educating those who are in contact with my boys…from fellow students, teachers, school staff (cafeteria and custodians included), neighbours, parents, coaches…doing my best to try to cover all the bases.

In two weeks, my youngest son will be heading off on his Grade 8 overnight trip to Camp Muskoka. It is a three-day, two night trip north of the city. An allergy related death of a child is unnerving.

Camp Muskoka is peanut/tree nut free and follows Anaphylaxis Canada’s policy. I must say, I feel confident sending Matthew (peanut/tree nut allergy). My eldest son, Michael  (dairy,egg,beef,sesame,peanut/tree nut,fish,shellfish,raspberry and mustard allergies) attended this same camp 2 years ago. As difficult as it was, I knew I had sent him in capable hands with every safety precaution covered, as best as I knew how, between his teachers, students and staff at Camp Muskoka.

I will be writing a post on our positive experience.

Kelly, a family friend of the Johnson’s family, is quoted as saying, “If you want to honor Amarrie, don’t grieve for the rest of your life.” “Do something about it. Let’s honor her memory by making sure that what happened to her never happens to another child.”

Amarrie’s death brings us face to face with the reality of the dangers of living with food allergies…my heart breaks for her family…I feel paralyzed with sadness…it is a reminder of how vigilant we must be…may Amarrie’s death not be in vain…may compassion unlock the doors to food allergy awareness everywhere.

How has Amerrie’s death affected you?

P.S. Some posts I recommend reading with their opinions are: Food Allergy Mama, DairyFreeDiner, Frugal Food Allergies and Nut-Free Mom.

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4 thoughts on “A Tragic Loss of a Child with Food Allergies: Amarrie Johnson

  1. Though my girl doesn’t have food allergy, I know of parents who didn’t send their child to preschool for fear of accidentally ingesting allergic food. Some can’t return to work since the allergy is so severe and they feel that they can’t take the risk. Hope allergy awareness can be improved, with training for use of epi-pen.

    Also, thanks for giving me a great cartoon idea with your comment on my blog on fan blowing in winter :) Looking to see if you’re on twitter, so I can share it & ask other moms for cartoon ideas!

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