13-year-old dies from severe peanut allergy reaction

Posted at: 07/30/2013 11:33 PM
Updated at: 07/31/2013 9:48 AM
By: Dan Levy

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - It's a tragedy that's being felt from Sacramento, Calif. to Slingerlands, N.Y. A 13-year-old girl has died after suffering a serious peanut allergy reaction, leading her parents into a crusade, determined  to make sure everyone learns from it.

Like most children with a food allergy, Natalie Giorgi knew what to do. Her family knew what to do and everyone apparently did the right things, but Natalie still wound up dying.

"It's heartbreaking," said Kelly Brothers, a Giorgi family friend. "If you could have been at the campsite and seen the resources that were there -- helicopters, paramedics, nurses, a doctor -- all working on her."

While at a family-oriented summer camp, Natalie took a bite out of a Rice Crispies treat, detected the taste of peanuts and spit it out right away.

She immediately told her mother, who administered some Benadryl to offset the allergic reaction. Then her father, a Sacramento urologist, administered three epinephrine injections. But still, her throat swelled shut and she died in her father's arms.

"Certain people have allergies that are so severe and have such a severe reaction, that unless they immediately get the emergency room care that is needed, then they are going to be at risk for even death," said Keith Algozzine, a physicians assistant at St. Mary's Hospital in Troy.

Algozzine, a nine-year veteran of St. Mary's emergency room, says he treats patient allergies on a daily basis, but severe food allergies, like the one that apparently killed Natalie, maybe five to 10 times a month.

He stresses even if a patient is treated in the field, you still need to call 911.

"...beacuse once you get here, we have all the equipment, all the medications and all the things that can be life-saving," he said.

The Giorgi family issued a statement saying, "While our hearts are breaking over the tragic loss of our beautiful daughter Natalie, it is our hope that others can learn from this and realize that nut and food allergies are life-threatening."

"You can absorb them through your skin, through mucus membranes of your mouth," Algozzine pointed out. "You don't have to fully swallow something if you have a severe enough allergy to have a horrible reaction."

Allergy experts reiterate the importance of making sure all family members, including extended family, and everyone your child is likely to be around, know about the allergy, what to do and who to call.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates 3 million American children -- four out of every 100 -- have food allergies and the numbers keep growing. There are many theories why that is happening, but no one knows for sure why it is so.