His parents believe his death could’ve been avoided if there were more awareness about peanut allergies
An 11-year-old boy died after an allergic reaction to peanuts and his parents are hoping his death will spread awareness of the dangers of food allergies. Their story is heartbreaking and their message very urgent.
Oakley Debbs and his family, of Florida, were in Kennebunkport, Maine visiting family for Thanksgiving when the unthinkable happened. According to WMTW News, Debbs had a peanut allergy and mistakenly ate cake that had nuts in it.
After eating the cake and realizing it contained nuts, Oakley told his mother, Merrill. She gave her son Benadryl, which she explains had always worked in the past when Oakley accidentally consumed nuts. She says he felt “great” and returned to playing with his cousins and twin sister. Later that night, however, he fell ill and began to vomit. Within minutes, he couldn’t breathe.
“He was blue,” Merrill recounts. “He was unconscious. My husband was holding him. He basically was gone.” The child passed away in the hospital four days later.
Now, they’re wishing they’d known how severe their son’s allergy was so they could’ve taken swifter action. The parents explain that his asthma was always the bigger concern. Oakley’s father Robert says, “There was always an asthma plan. We didn’t really have a defined nut plan which we’re finding out needs to be really defined.”
That’s why on the day they lost their son, the parents also formulated an idea for an organization to help raise awareness so no other family would have to suffer this kind of tragic loss. Called the Red Sneakers Foundation, named for the only shoes Oakley liked to wear, the group’s aim is to raise money to educate and spread awareness and also, to have labels on food packaging be as clear and large as possible.
Robert explains, “If someone wrote, ‘Contains nuts, may kill you,” like cigarettes or something, people would understand it.”
The Debbs family is now wearing red sneakers and the idea is catching on with Oakley’s soccer team all wearing red shoes at their last game. Girls on a soccer team at another school wore red ribbons in their hair during a game. The family has received messages from people all over the world wearing red for their son. Robert says, “It goes to show you how severe this affliction is and how concerned people are.”
Oakley’s funeral is on December 10th and there will be a soccer game before the service where all children are encouraged to wear red shoes. Visit the Red Sneaker Foundation site if you’d like to donate or learn more about their goals.