Today I began working toward safer shoools for pa children and spoke with Michelle McComb in Austin. Michelle is the coordinator of shool health for the State of Texas. Our conversation began with a brief talk about the death of Nathan Walters and proceeded to what can be done to assure that this does not happen here. Ms McComb if I understood correctly has a brother who is allergic to tree nuts, and was to a degree aware of the dangers of peanut allergies. She made me aware of some frightening things in our school systems. A school district in this state can hire anyone off the street to oversee health issues in their schools. The health department has no enforcement aurhority over health issures in the schools but acts in an advisory role only. Futhermore, as a state employee Ms McComb can not go to the legislature with recommendation. She can only give recommendations when Representatives or Senators come to her. So each of us needs to contact our representative and urge them to seek Ms McCombs counsel in this matter. You can find information on your representative by going to [url="http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/county.htm"]http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/county.htm[/url] Ms McComb also state that two of the legislators who have shown an intrest in health related issues are Senator Jane Nelson and Mike Moncrief. Like the epipen this is something that doesn't need to be put off. Texas is notorious for lagging behind the rest of the country in good legislation let's see if we can be in the vanguard this time instead of riding drag.
On May 25, 2001
Figured I'd put a copy of the letter that I handed out at our Parents Group meeting last night.
Dear Texas Resident,
You've just read three articles about Nathan Walters and his tragic, senseless, preventable death. I did not wish to hand out a whole packet of papers, but I really felt all three articles needed to be included, because each one told about something I thought was important to this story. The first mentioned the fact that Nathan did not receive adequate and proper treatment for two hours after first showing signs of having difficulty breathing after ingesting peanuts. The second mentioned the fact that the chaperone that was with Nathan for those two hours was a licensed practical nurse, a woman who certainly should have known he needed help. The third was all about Nathan himself, and what a happy, loving little boy he was. It's important to not forget the life, the reason, why this incident was, and is, such a "big deal". I am including this letter attached to these articles, because I now want to ask each of you a favor.
There are so many questions involved in this. Why was there peanuts on that field trip at all? Why, if there were going to be peanut-containing lunches, was a special lunch not provided for a young boy known to be allergic to peanuts? Why was Nathan not warned about the cookie when he returned the other peanut-containing items stating he was allergic to them? Why was his Epipen not used immediately upon him getting sick and having difficulty breathing? The teacher knew he was allergic, knew what had been served for lunch, and knew how to use the Epipen. Why didn't she? Why didn't the L.P.N. chaperone who knew he was allergic to peanuts, knew peanuts had been served at lunch, and knew how to use the Epipen do something sooner. SHE certainly should have known to use it. Why did this poor child suffer needlessly for 2 hours before getting the epinephrine that could have saved his life had it been administered much sooner? And the biggest question of all......What can schools do to preven this from EVER happening again?
The school district Nathan attended is now looking into their policies and protocols to see if they are adequate (obviously NOT!), and Nathan's family has expressed their hope that ALL schools will do the same, so that maybe his death won't have been in vain. That's where the favor comes in. My husband called our local school district today to inform them of this tragic event and to ask them to please take a look at their policies and so forth to make sure they were doing everything they could to prevent such a thing happening here. Then he called the Texas Coordinator of School Health in Austin to ask if there was anything she could do to help schools put together adequate precautions and policies to help protect kids with severe allergies. She told us of a startling fact. The health administrator in each school district does not have to be qualified in any way. Schools can hire anybody off the street and put them in charge of overseeing the school's health policies, programs, and procedures. This needs to be changed.
There also needs to be general guidelines put into place for all of Texas schools that will provide a backbone sotospeak for each school's own policies and plans of action in regards to severe allergies and the training in use of and use of Epipens. Each school should be in charge of deciding whether or not a peanut-free classroom, or an aide to be assigned to a child with multiple food allergies, or a ban on latex balloons in the school, etc is necessary, but all schools need to have a basic set of guidelines with which to start from. Having all teachers trained in how to use an Epipen (it takes literally 5 sec to learn how to do it properly), when to use it (a list of symptoms would take maybe 10min to go over), and taught that "if in doubt, Epi!" as using it when NOT necessary causes no harm, but NOT using it soon enough when it IS necessary can be fatal, should, we feel, be mandatory. It's such a SIMPLE thing to do, but it could potentially save the lives of the thousands of children in Texas schools who are at risk of anaphylaxis.
Please help us ensure that Nathan's death was not in vain. Please contact your representative at the state level (you can find out who that is by going to [url="http://capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/county.htm)"]http://capitol.state.tx.us/fyi/county.htm)[/url] and ask him or her to get in touch with Michelle McComb, Coordinator for School Health in Texas, at the Texas Department of Health to find out what can be done and what needs to be done in order to make sure this kind of preventable, senseless, tragic death does not happen in any of our schools. I have listed some statistics found through FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) on the next page, as well as a few internet links to direct your representatives to.
Two and one-half percent of the general population suffers from food allergy, or between 6 and 7 million Americans. Eight percent of children are affected. Millions more are affected by allergy to insect sting, latex, and medication.
Physicians are reporting an increase in the number of food-allergic persons in the country.
Food allergy is the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside of the hospital setting.
It is estimated that as many as 150 people die each year from food allergy-related reactions, approximately 50 people die from insect sting reactions.
Each year, in the U.S., anaphylactic reactions to food result in approximately 30,000 trips to Emergency Rooms and 2,000 extended hospital stays.
If you would like to know more about the circumstances of Nathan's death, there is continuing coverage of the story and subsequent investigation at [url="http://www.krem.com/extra"]http://www.krem.com/extra[/url] If you would like to know more about food allergies and anaphylaxis (the most severe type of allergic reaction) please go to The Food Allery and Anaphylaxis' website located at [url="http://www.foodallergy.org"]http://www.foodallergy.org[/url] If you would like to know more about peanut allergy in particular, visit PeanutAllergy.com at [url="http://www.peanutallergy.com"]http://www.peanutallergy.com[/url] and browse through the discussion boards.
Please feel free to use any or all parts of this letter, or to forward it to other Texas residents. Matt, ourselves, and all the other children at risk of anaphylaxis and their families thank you very much for taking the time to read this and for any help you can give in helping to keep these youngsters safe!
Chris and Mike Casey, [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] Parents of 2 children with multiple food allergies, one of which suffers from anaphylactic reactions to peanuts.
[This message has been edited by MattsMom (edited May 25, 2001).]