Thanksgiving is that time of the year we are all eagerly waiting, because it means we’ll get to spend the day with those we love the most, our precious family and friends we are thankful for.
However, this Thanksgiving will be remembered by one family as the worst day of their life. On this day that was supposed to be all about happiness and love, a life was lost.
Oakley Debbs, an 11-year-old boy made one wrong choice, and his parents failed to help him, and now he is in Heaven and his mom and dad will forever grief over the loss.
The family was getting ready for the celebration and wanted to make sure everything was perfect, so they put the turkey in the oven, and ordered a bunch of tasty sweets to offer their guests with. But, little did they know that the basket of treats and the cake which was inside would be the reason for their son’s death.
Everything looked so delicious that no one could resist the smell of the freshly baked bread and cookies. Oakley was curious to take a bite of the cake that was looking at him from the table placed in the corner of the room so he treated himself with a tiny piece of it not knowing it contained nuts. Oakley had a mild allergy to peanuts and the reaction was immediate.
He rushed to his mother who started reading the ingredient’s list. It contained walnuts that triggered the allergy, so Merrill didn’t think twice before giving her son Benadryl which seemed to work just fine. Oakley started feeling better, and he even went out to play with his cousins.
“It went away. Whatever was going on inside of him we had no knowledge of. He seemed fine. He went out to play with his cousins, took a shower and brushed his teeth.”
But as soon as the family called the night off, Oakley started complaining. He told her mom:
“I’m getting sick again.”
This time, the symptoms were way more severe and the mother simply didn’t have time to react. She reached for the phone and called 911.
“He started throwing up and from there it was a tornado of issues. We called 911. By the time the ambulance got there – about 10 minutes later- he was blue.”
When the first respondents arrived there was nothing that could be done. They gave the boy two doses of epinephrine but it was too late for him to be saved. Oakley was brought to the hospital where doctors fought for his life for four days, but at the end they had to let go. The boy was pronounced dead.
His mother can’t forget that day. She had spent days blaming herself for not giving him more intensive medication in the first place. She should have chosen EpiPen over the Benadryl. But, the damage was done and Merrill couldn’t get over the thought that he could have been alive if she had chosen differently.
Dr. Ruchi Gupta, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the Food Allergies Outcomes Program at Northwestern, told TODAY that delayed allergic reaction like Oakley’s is a mystifying subject.
“We do not know enough about delayed reactions like these that seem to get better but then progress rapidly to death. That is why it is so critical to know how to identify a reaction and when and how to use epinephrine.”
The family later wrote an open letter to everyone who knew and loved their son as well as those who provided them with endless support.
“‘Love, love and more love. You are all so beautiful. Thank you, everyone, for being with me, especially during this time. I appreciate how strong you have been for me. No one could have done anything else Wednesday night. No one is to blame. If you think you are… DON’T. Don’t PLEASE!
Thank you for everyone wanting to help me. Having a family so thoughtful and caring who loves to laugh makes me the happiest boy. Support each other with determined hearts. Be there to support or to be held. It is the way to get through this time. I am grateful to be part of this family. I am blessed by the grace of God to be in it…
Be cheerful happy and enthusiastic. Show your courage, be at peace. Love your life and live it. That is the best thing you can do for me.
Look for me in the rainbow I will always be there.'”
Merrill hopes the story of her son’s sudden passing will raise awareness in schools about allergies and it will result in incorporating nut ban. She founded a foundation called “Red Sneakers” that educates people on the dangers of food allergies. This mother who loved her son as only a mother can love will always live with the pain of his loss. She did everything in her power to save her boy’s life, but it was simply impossible.
The below video can teach you how to administer the EpiPen properly in case of an anaphylactic response to food.