A South Florida mother is on a mission to educate parents about food allergies after her 11-year-old son died from eating a piece of cake.
That piece of cake—unbeknownst to Oakley Debbs—contained walnuts, which the boy was allergic to.
Oakley and his family were aware of his allergy, and were usually very careful to take proper precautions. The active child had asthma and also tested weakly positive for peanut and tree nut allergies.
Because of this, Oakley was very careful about avoiding nuts, his mother Merrill Debbs told Fox 4 Now. “He always checked the labels, he was always aware of nuts in any foods,” she told them. “And we thought, ‘Wow, we’ve made it this far.’”
But, while on vacation over Thanksgiving break, Oakley and some family friends were playing hard outside. When they ran in for a quick snack break, the kids dove into some leftover cake sitting out on the counter.
“He was running through the house and there was a coffee cake that had been left out on the table. No one had put it away, it was a bit haphazard. The kids just grabbed that as something to eat. And Oakley grabbed it. And he ate it,” his mom explained.
Shortly after Oakley ate the cake, a small blister popped up on his lip. Next, he complained of a stomachache, and soon after began throwing up. What came next, his mother described to Today, was “a tornado of issues.”
Oakley experienced anaphylactic shock, seizures and cardiac arrest just an hour and a half after eating the cake that contained nuts. During the ordeal, the family administered an EpiPen three times but to no avail.
Oakley eventually died in his father’s arms at the hospital, but his family wants his story told and his legacy to live on.
In the hopes of preventing other families from suffering this same horrific loss, the Debbs family has created Red Sneakers for Oakley. According to their website, they aim to increase awareness by supporting educational programs, funding research and influencing public policy.
The foundation’s name stems from Oakley’s love of wearing red sneakers on the athletic field. “In every sport that he ever played, his sneakers always had to be red,” Merrill Debbs told Fox 4 Now.
Unfortunately, Oakley’s allergies are not unique, and that is what his family wants you to know. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4 to 6 percent of children in the U.S. battle with food allergies. And, the Mayo Clinic says peanut allergies are responsible for the majority of severe allergy attacks. They warn parents, if your child has had only a mild allergic reaction, like Oakley, it’s still important to consult your doctor because there is a definite risk of a more serious future reaction.
For more information about Red Sneakers for Oakley and how you can help, visit their Facebook page.