Probe Called into Tragic Death of Allergic 3-Year-Old Given Grilled Cheese at Pre-School

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in Food Allergy, Milk & Egg, News
Published: November 9, 2017
Elijah Silvera

Updated November 10, 2017: A 3-year-old has died after his family says he was given a grilled cheese sandwich by an employee at his pre-kindergarten program on November 3. This occurred despite the preschool having documentation of his severe dairy allergy.

Elijah Silvera went into anaphylaxis after he consumed the sandwich at Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services in Harlem, according to a GoFundMe page set up by a family cousin. He was taken to Harlem Hospital Pediatric ER where they were not able to save him.

Thomas Silvera, the young boy’s father, said Elijah had asthma and was also allergic to peanuts and all berries. “He was that who kid we had to watch over very seriously. We carried this emergency pack that had Benadryl, Tylenol and his EpiPen,” he said in an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. “I’m a chronic asthmatic myself. I suffer from allergies. So having that, I know all the signs.”

The New York City Fire Department confirmed to ABC News that there was no 911 call from the pre-K program during the toddler’s severe reaction. News reports say the center’s staff instead had called Elijah’s mother, who then rushed her son to the hospital.

The New York City Health Department is investigating the incident and shut down the facility for failing to follow its written allergy safety plan and failing to adequately supervise a child. “There is nothing more important than the safety of our children and we are deeply saddened by this tragedy,” the health department’s statement said.

“We will get to the bottom of what happened here. In the meantime, we’re closing the Center for Family Services and continuing to aggressively investigate what happened and whether the facility could have done something differently to prevent this tragedy.”

The family notes that Elijah’s death was completely preventable. “We can and must do more to protect our children from life-threatening allergic reactions in U.S. schools,” they declared on the GoFundMe page. The online fundraiser was set up to cover the costs of meals for the family, funeral expenses and an autopsy to determine more facts surrounding the boy’s death. The page says Elijah leaves behind his mother Dina, father Thomas and older brother Sebastian, 5.

“Our family is only beginning the long and painful process of adjusting to a world that does not include Elijah in it,” they write. “As we ease into this unthinkable reality and say goodbye to our sweet, joyful Elijah – and our hopes and dreams for all he would become – we thank you for your support.”

There has been an outpouring of support for the family with 1,300 people donating more than $51,000 within four days of the page being set up.