Food Allergy Cited in Deaths of 12-Year-Old and College Student

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in Food Allergy, News
Published: December 11, 2019

Two families are reeling from the loss of sons this past month, with anaphylaxis confirmed in one death and suspected in another. Both tragedies occurred in Ohio.

Wyatt Polachek, a 12-year-old from Monroeville, Ohio
Wyatt Polacheck

On Nov. 30, Wyatt Polachek, a 12-year-old from Monroeville, Ohio, was attending a party with family and friends to watch a college football game. His mother, Rhonda Bischoff, said on Facebook that “he had an allergic reaction to something he ate and collapsed.”

Bischoff tells Allergic Living that Wyatt had allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, and had never previously had a reaction severe enough to require an epinephrine auto-injector.

As to what triggered this severe anaphylactic reaction, she says: “It was a cookie dough dip, we believe.” The grieving mom wasn’t at the football party, but Wyatt’s father, two brothers and sister were there.

“He did not have his EpiPen with him,” says Bischoff, but she says the ambulance arrived less than five minutes after Wyatt had collapsed. The EMTs immediately gave him epinephrine, and worked on him while transporting him to the local hospital in Bucyrus, Ohio.

Wyatt was then airlifted to Akron Children’s Hospital, where he was on a ventilator and receiving treatment for brain swelling. A Gofundme page, which raised money for the family’s expenses, said: “This boy fought the good fight while there.” Sadly, Wyatt passed away at Akron Children’s on Dec. 3, 2019.  

Bischoff describes her son as “a caring, funny and sweet boy,” who loved to go camping and four-wheeling. She speaks with pride of his accomplishments.

His obituary tells the brief life story of an extraordinary 7th Grader. Wyatt was on the principal’s list for good grades, the recipient of a citizenship award and an athlete involved on the basketball, football and baseball teams. In addition to his mom, Wyatt leaves his father, his stepdad, his siblings and step-brothers.

College Tragedy

On Dec. 5, 20-year-old Logan Lewis was discovered unresponsive in his dormitory at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio. Authorities told the local news media that a coroner is investigating the cause of Logan’s death.

20-year-old Logan Lewis was discovered unresponsive in his dormitory at Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio
Logan Lewis

However, his mother, Jamie Baker, who lives in Georgia, said on Facebook that Logan’s death related to his severe and lifelong milk allergy. “He accidentally drank something with milk in it and did not get his EpiPen in time to stop the reaction, and the EMTs were unable to save him,” she wrote.

Logan’s obituary describes how he “made friends easily and had a passion for helping others.” His mother has set up a Gofundme page to help with funeral expenses. She describes him as “a kind, handsome and amazing son.” He is survived by his father, siblings and step-father.

Prayers Continue for Emma

In Akron, Ohio, the family of Emma Pfouts was asking for the community’s prayers as the 16-year-old underwent her third surgery in three weeks. Christina Weigand has been posting updates on her daughter’s condition with the hashtag #EmmaStrong regularly on Facebook. 

Weigand cited her daughter’s recent MRI that “came back with bad news” as the reason for the third surgery. “There is not a moment that goes by that we don’t push, advocate or fight for her,” Weigand wrote on Dec. 10. Then on Dec. 11, she would report that the surgery went well, although Emma “has a long road ahead.”

The family has been by Emma’s side at Akron Children’s Hospital since the night of the teen’s homecoming dance. On Oct. 19, Emma suffered either a severe asthma attack or severe food allergy reaction at her high school in Norton, Ohio. (As both anaphylaxis and a severe asthma attack cause breathing distress, it’s not always easy to distinguish between the two.) 

In hospital, Emma has shown some signs of progress. Yet, the teen and her family have also experienced difficult moments with Emma’s recurring neurostorming, a nervous system disorder common in those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. Her mother says it causes Emma’s heart rate to soar, pain, profuse perspiration and uncontrolled movements.

“There is nothing we can do but try to comfort her with a cool rag on her head and say we’re here,” wrote Weigand on Dec. 7. 

The family continues to receive an outpouring of support from the local community, Emma’s school and the food allergy community. Many have donated to a GoFundMe page to help cover Emma’s medical expenses.

With files from Mariam Matti.