‘I didn’t know what anaphylaxis meant until my daughter died’

The mother of a teenager who died is campaigning for adrenalin pens to be available in public places

Tue, May 6, 2014, 01:00

Twenty minutes after eating a meal during a family get-together in December, 14-year-old Emma Sloan was dead.

Suffering from a severe peanut allergy, the teenager went into anaphylactic shock and without the life-saving aid of an Epipen, or Anapen, collapsed and died on a Dublin street.

As the mother of an anaphylactic teenager, I was horrified to hear this tragic news and can understand why Emma’s mother, Caroline, is devastated. She is still looking for answers and is campaigning for adrenaline pens to be accessible in public places to prevent another family going through this heartbreaking ordeal.

“I didn’t know what the word anaphylaxis meant until my daughter died,” says Caroline. “We had no idea that her allergy was so serious and this is why we didn’t have the Epipen with us when we went out to dinner.

“I am in no doubt that if there had been a pen available in the restaurant or if the local pharmacy had given us one to use, Emma would still be alive: it’s a simple fact that a shot of adrenaline would have saved her life.

“This is why I have launched the Emma’s Voice campaign. I want Epipens to be available in schools, restaurants and other public places and would like to see first-responders trained in the same way they are trained to use defibrillators.

“Emma has lost her voice but I want to make sure that her death was not in vain. I have been unable to grieve for my daughter because I am so angry that she is gone, and that her death was preventable. My anger is pushing me forward to try to make changes because, compared with other countries, we are so behind on health and safety measures, and something needs to be done to make Ireland a safer place.”

Caroline, who has two other daughters, 20-year-old Amy and two-year-old Mia, says she cannot understand why the simple adrenaline devices are not readily available and why more importance is not placed on the potential danger allergy sufferers face.

“There are only two or three places in the country that cater for children with allergies, which seems crazy to me given how serious the condition can be,” she says. “There should be an allergy clinic in every county, along with training for healthcare workers, colour-coded bracelets for sufferers and adrenaline pens available anywhere that food is served.

“My beautiful daughter will never grow up, get married or have children. She has lost her life and we will never see her again, simply because this country hasn’t got the proper precautions in place.”

More accessible
Paul O’Shea is an Independent town councillor for Ennis, Co Clare. Since he heard about Emma’s death almost five months ago, he has campaigned to make the pens more accessible. “It is estimated that food allergies affect as many as 25 per cent of the population,” he says. “I went to the Dáil last January to highlight the need for Epipens to be made available in restaurants and hotels after receiving backing from the Irish Hotels Federation and the Restaurants Association of Ireland.

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