After August Tragedies, Families Work to Increase Food Allergy Education

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News
Published: September 19, 2018

Late August 2018 turned into a difficult time of food allergy loss. In the following report, Allergic Living provides what is known of three tragedies and reminds those managing such allergies to be always vigilant about food cross-contact and of the importance of using epinephrine right away if you suspect a severe allergic reaction has begun.

We send our deepest sympathies to the families of these young women who have lost their lives, and note the efforts of two of the families to lead to greater awareness and allergy education and hopes for treatments.

Joanna Salmingo
Joanna Salmingo

Thirty-year-old Joanna ate two frozen Japanese mochi balls on Aug. 8 that she purchased from an open in-store display at Whole Foods Market in Markham, Ontario.

Her brother Joey Salmingo tells Allergic Living that his sister was allergic to all nuts, peanuts and shellfish and had mild asthma. It turns out that the balls she ate contained cashew milk as a main ingredient.

Although she had only ever had one reaction with itchy hives as a little girl, on this August evening, Joanna suffered a severe and ultimately fatal reaction. She’d gone upstairs after chatting and sharing the dessert with her family at their home northeast of Toronto, but soon stumbled downstairs. Her brother recalls her gasping for air and carrying her epinephrine auto-injector.

Joey says their mother, Diana Salmingo, who’s a nurse, immediately said: “Joanna, what did you eat?” Her daughter became unable to speak and soon lost consciousness.

As Joey called 911, his mother lay his sister down and discovered that Joanna had already administered her one EpiPen. Diana immediately began CPR chest compressions, but found Joanna’s pulse was gone. The EMS arrived and took over, and it took them 15 to 20 minutes to get their patient’s pulse back, and then Joanna was transported to hospital.

She suffered significant brain damage and died on August 24. “My sister had never, ever experienced a severe allergic reaction. This is the first time and it was her last,” said Joey, a TV presenter with a background in the restaurant and food service industry. Joey and his mother are on a mission to educate. They’ve recently launched FATE (food allergy training and education), and have a GoFundMe page to support this initiative.

Read more: A brother’s mission for better food labeling and allergy education

Sadie Bristow
Sadie Bristow

As one of England’s most talented young tennis players, 9-year-old Sadie Bristow had won 40 tournaments in the past year. Her mother, Clare Bristow, tells Allergic Living that her daughter was always helpful to fellow competitors. “It was the same at school and at home, looking out and caring for others.”

On August 19, Sadie suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction and later died in hospital. The girl, her parents Stewart and Clare, and her two sisters had been visiting the Whitstable Castle and Gardens on the southeast coast of England. Stewart Bristow told local media that Sadie suddenly wasn’t feeling well while playing on the castle grounds, and then symptoms of anaphylaxis progressed extremely quickly.

Sadie was allergic to dairy and some nuts, and had asthma. While some news reports say dairy triggered the girl’s fatal reaction, Clare says the precise cause remains unknown: “there was no obvious trigger which caused the reaction.”

Sadie’s parents gave her epinephrine at the start of their daughter’s reaction and rushed her to the local medical center in Whitstable. She was swiftly transported to Margate Hospital and then airlifted to St George’s Hospital in London. She was given multiple shots of epinephrine while in hospital.

But unlike previous reactions, Sadie didn’t respond to the medicine and the family is calling for research to examine such cases. “None of the treatment administered had any effect,” Clare told Allergic Living. “So the question is why wasn’t Sadie responsive?” The mother says Sadie experienced reactions in the past of “different variations, which were treated, monitored and reviewed.”

The Bristows have set up a crowdfunding page, with the aim of creating a “lasting legacy for Sadie.” An organization will be started “to promote the understanding of allergies, to create awareness and to highlight the increase in the dangers of allergens and how to manage them,” says her mother. The organization’s other goal will be to assist young tennis competitors who lack financial means.

On the crowdfunding page, Stewart, writes of his daughter’s “passion, drive and determination” on the tennis court and in life. Clare adds: “She was an inspiration to everyone she met.”

Kelly Ann Moyer

Kelly Ann Moyer, 39, of Boardman, Ohio, died as a result of a severe anaphylactic reaction on August 26. As her family did not respond to Allergic Living’s interview request, we don’t know the details of the woman’s death.

However, a public tribute page says she was treated at the Cleveland Clinic for a fatal anaphylactic reaction. It also notes that she was a fine arts graduate who loved photography and animals. As an organ donor, the tribute says, “Kelly was a giver, even at the end of her life.”