A Minnesota family is suing after their 16-year-old son, Scott Johnson, tragically died last summer after eating pancakes at a restaurant. The family reportedly believed the pancakes were dairy-free.
Even the smallest traces of dairy had sent Scott into the emergency room in the past, making restaurant visits extremely rare for the family. When they did eat out, it was done with extreme caution.
Last June, they went for breakfast at Bemidji’s Minnesota Nice Cafe.
“We didn’t have to wait for a table,” Cindy Johnson, Scott's mom, told CBS Minnesota. “They knew us by name.”
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Cindy then asked the server if the gluten-free pancakes were also dairy-free. The server checked with the cook and then said they were.
After insisting that the grill be cleaned before the pancakes were made, the family thought that they had taken enough precautions as Scott ate two of the pancakes. They instantly knew something was wrong.
“He had just finished, and he said, ‘We have to go now,'” Cindy said.
They rushed home and Scott used his EpiPen and nebulizer, the tools that would open his lungs and help him with his allergic reactions. Cindy immediately called 911 after it became clear neither tool was working.
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Scott died three days later after doctors told the family that he suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction, an allergic reaction that occurs rapidly and causes a life-threatening response involving the whole body. This reaction can lead to difficulty breathing and shock ultimately leading to death. Scott's heart failed.
The family always looked out for Scott, who had a severe dairy allergy since birth, reports CBS Minnesota.
“Every time I’d be out shopping with my parents, I’d pick it up and look at the label — ‘Can Scott have this?'” Scott's sister, Jaris, said.
“The hardest thing for me was I didn’t get to talk to him,” said Steve Johnson, Scott's father. “I was 18 miles off the highway when I got the call.”
“I miss him just as much today as I did the day after,” Cindy added.
The Johnson family has begun sharing this story while still in the process of suing the restaurant for damages and the death of their son. They are hoping to prevent future instances like this from occurring by shedding light onto the seriousness of food allergies.
More than 60,000 Minnesota children have from some sort of food allergy. Because the state does not mandate workers to get food-allergen training, restaurants do not have to make any special accommodations. Around 200 people die annually from food allergies.
The Johnsons simply want families to be more aware of the dangers.
“Ask questions and, if you’re not sure, don’t do it,” Steve said.