Brilliant, Beloved College Student Dies of Nut Allergy Reaction

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News
Published: December 9, 2022
Omar Osman excelled at robotics.
Omar Osman excelled at robotics. photo: Facebook

A college student described as a natural leader, brilliant, and much loved by his classmates and teachers has died after a severe allergic reaction to nuts.

Omar Osman was a freshman at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and a 2022 graduate of nearby Lewiston High School. His teachers and officials remembered him as an academic standout, a leader on his school’s robotics team, and vice president of his class.

“He was one of the best kids I’ve ever spent time with,” Jake Langlais, Lewiston Public Schools superintendent, told Allergic Living. Langlais got to know Osman when he was a student representative to the School Committee during the pandemic.

“I spent a lot of time picking his brain and asking him his thoughts on things. He was just a genuine, courageous, kind young man who would speak his mind but was thoughtful about what he was saying,” said Langlais. The superintendent spoke at Osman’s December 6 memorial service. 

The allergic reaction occurred the evening of December 3, 2022. Langlais shared some of the heartbreaking details with Allergic Living. Osman ate something during a campus event that he didn’t realize contained nuts and began to react. He sensed he needed epinephrine, but he had left his auto-injector in his dorm room. Osman told friends he was walking back to his room to retrieve it, Langlais said.

Once there, Langlais doesn’t know if Osman located the auto-injector and self-administered it. But his symptoms continued to worsen. He told the residence staff that he needed to go to the hospital.

College Student Was Bright Spot to All

Thinking driving was the quickest way to get there, they got into a car and headed to the hospital. On the way, Osman’s symptoms continued to progress and someone in the car called 911.

Paramedics met them along the way. They attempted to assist Osman, but he died before he got to the hospital, according to a statement from Bowdoin College president Clayton Rose.

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, to parents of Somali descent, Osman was a high achiever. He was deeply involved with his school community and a “joy to have in every class,” Langlais said. “He was a bright spot to everyone who knew him.”

The student was a member of the National Honor Society, the Lewiston Youth Advisory Council, Model United Nations and a graduate of the Lewiston Regional Technical Center (LRTC) Information Technology program.

“We will … always remember Omar for being humble, generous, hardworking and being deeply committed to his friends, family and community,” wrote LRTC in a social media post.

Osman was also an artist who helped to paint murals at the high school. “Omar left a lasting legacy in his short amount of time on this Earth. He was an exceptional human full of kindness,” said his former art teacher, Deanna Ehrhardt.

The student earned a full scholarship to college, where he planned to major in computer science. He also participated in the college’s Thrive program for low-income and first-generation college students. Of his dreams, the college quoted him as saying: “I want to be someone anyone and everyone can rely on and can know that I will always be there to help.”

Community Mourns Huge Loss

Lewiston High School dismissed classes early on Dec. 6 so that students and faculty could attend Osman’s prayer and memorial service, which were held at Gracelawn Memorial Park in Auburn, Maine. Another memorial service followed at a nearby Islamic center. 

Omar Osman
Omar Osman

Jacob Willette, an engineer who served as a mentor for the robotics team, recalled the day Osman helped lead the team to the finals of a robotics competition. As the underdogs in the final showdown against the top-seeded team, Osman took the controls of the robot the team had spent months building and programming. His skillful maneuvers kept the other team from scoring, delivering his team the win.  

“At the end of that match, I could see it in his eyes,” Willette said. “He knew he was good at this; he was having a lot of fun. He was an inspiration to his teammates. It was just joy.” 

Osman planned to return to his high school as a mentor this upcoming competition season, Willette said. “Omar had so much more good to do in the world.”

Langlais has spoken with Osman’s parents and two sisters. “They are a very religious family, and they believe he was a blessing and a gift while he was here,” he said. Though he believes their faith will help sustain them, “there is a lot of pain there right now. They are hurting. It’s unimaginable.”

Editor’s Note: Allergic Living’s editors extend our sincere condolences to Omar Osman’s family and friends. We ask our readers to remind those with food allergies: always carry your epinephrine and please use it promptly when needed.

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