The mother of Andrew Seely, the 19-year-old who suffered a severe allergic reaction following a hazing incident in which his face was smeared with peanut butter, says her son and family decided to share his story to prevent this type of dangerous behavior.
“Andrew says he knows he has to speak out about this because he doesn’t want it to happen to anyone else,” Teresa Seely of Marysville, Michigan told Allergic Living. She says her son had been passed out when the peanut butter smearing happened at the fraternity house near Central Michigan University (CMU).
His face, especially his eyes and nose, became extremely swollen. “He woke up in the frat house in the morning and he actually thought he had been punched in the face,” Seely says.
Andrew managed to get himself back to his dorm and then to class before his professor advised him that he needed to go straight to the campus health clinic. A friend immediately drove him to the clinic, where he was given a steroid injection and Benadryl to reduce the extreme swelling of his face.
According to his mother, the individuals involved in the incident were aware of Andrew’s allergy to peanuts, which he has had since he was a year old. The local police are investigating, but have not yet said whether charges will be laid.
What has also upset his family is that, all his life, both Andrew and those around him have taken great care to follow food allergy safety protocols and try to prevent a serious reaction.
“We live in a small town in Michigan, where everyone knows everyone,” Seely says. “All his friends, growing up, knew of his allergies. He never had a problem throughout elementary school or high school.”
She says everyone in Andrew’s life knew of the protocols to use antihistamine for a minor reaction, and to use his epinephrine auto-injector for a more serious one. When Andrew moved into a CMU residence, as a precaution, the family informed his roommates and their parents of his allergies, which also include shellfish and tree nuts.
Having so much support around allergy safety has made the incident more of a shock to the family. “We couldn’t believe it!” says Seely. “We send our child off to college, thinking that we took all the proper steps and educated him and then this happens.”
The mother of three recently wrote a Facebook post to express her shock and concern what had happened to her son, who has had a peanut allergy since he was a year old. She included photographs showing the severe nature of the swelling of her son’s face following the alleged “hazing”. The photos made the post go viral, but also drew a string of negative comments, prompting Seely to remove the post from her Facebook page.
“Unless you have a child with a peanut allergy or any allergy, you don’t really understand the concerns,” says Seely. “We just want to bring awareness about the seriousness of life-threatening food allergies. It’s not a joke.”
Andrew was a student at CMU and was in the process of pledging to an off-campus fraternity, where the incident is alleged to have taken place last October. The now-former-CMU student didn’t come forward to tell his family about it until the first week of March. Andrew spent one semester at CMU before transferring to another college because of the incident.
CMU spokesperson Heather Smith told Allergic Living that it takes “such matters with utmost seriousness,” and college officials are investigating the incident.
The fraternity at the center of the investigation is referred to by the name of Alpha Chi Rho. However, that fraternity’s national headquarters responded through a statement saying there is currently no chapter sanctioned to use its name near CMU. Further, Alpha Chi Rho said its leadership was “appalled and upset by the actions taken by individuals against” Andrew.
“Alpha Chi Rho does not condone this type of behavior – or any form of hazing – and it stands in conflict with our mission to cultivate men of character, honor and integrity,” the statement says.
A 2011 Allergic Living article reported that more than one-third of food allergic students between the ages of 8 to 17 reported being bullied or harassed with frequent food threats. Furthermore, in almost half of the reported cases, the children or teenagers did not tell their parents about the bullying.