On Tuesday October 9, 2012, Ryan Gibbons age 12, went to school. By mid-day he was dead, possibly from an asthma attack. Ryan was a grade 7 student at Straffordville Public School and resided with his mother, Sandra Gibbons, in Aylmer.
As Aylmer is close to my home in London, the London Free Press newspaper reported the story, and my husband brought to my attention that a student collapsed at school and died of asthma. Ryan had his puffer with him, and he apparently used it in the school office before he collapsed. Before I read the story, I told my husband that this likely happened within one hour of eating. I was right: School officials advised that that Ryan “showed signs of medical distress during the first nutrition break of the day”. His mother is quoted as saying “There is something there in my heart that says this is not right, there are questions. It’s a mother’s instinct.” To read the London Free Press article, click here.
Results of a post-mortem conducted on Wednesday are pending police review. I wonder if Ryan had an allergic reaction to his morning snack, and this was mistaken for an asthma attack and only treated with asthma medication. Allergist Dr. Mark Greenwald explains that an asthma attack can look exactly the same as the respiratory distress of anaphylaxis.
I’ve reported before that epinephrine saves lives for anaphylaxis AND severe asthma attacks. Whether this was a case of food allergy anaphylaxis or asthma or both, epinephrine is the best emergency treatment for both kinds of airway constriction, but the double duty makes prompt use even more critical. Dr. Paul Ehrlich explains this very well here.
Puffers don’t always provide the needed relief, and waiting for rescue crews to arrive wastes precious time while the patient is deprived of oxygen. By the time Ryan received emergency treatment, life saving efforts failed, and he was put on life support very briefly before being pronounced dead. Says Dr. Greenwald “Epinephrine is an excellent choice for a severe asthma attack, especially if the patient cannot coordinate an inhalation.”
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