School District Apologizes For EpiPen Slip

| by Zara Zhi
Lia SommersLia Sommers

A Chicago high school has apologized after a school nurse hindered a student with a deadly peanut allergy from using an EpiPen.

Lonnie Joy and Shawn Sommer’s daughter, Lia, 15, was exposed to peanuts after eating a sandwich at the John Hersey High School cafeteria on Aug. 30. The high school freshman is severely allergic to nuts and requires epinephrine to avoid the deadly consequences from anaphylaxis.

After her first bite of the turkey sandwich served with pesto, Lia instantly knew something was wrong. The 15-year-old rushed to the nurse’s office with a friend, where the nurse reportedly instructed Lia to take an antihistamine, Benadryl, Lonnie Joy said in a letter she read aloud to the district’s Board of Education.

“Lia refused, knowing from previous experience that her symptoms would be masked by the antihistamine, though the anaphylactic reaction would not be halted, and would continue to silently and dangerously escalate undetected,” Lonnie Joy told the Chicago Tribune. “Instead of following Lia’s Allergy and Anaphylaxis Plan on file in the health office, which clearly states, ‘Give EpiPen First!’ the nurse opted to have her call me to confirm before administering epinephrine, with my daughter’s life held in the balance.”

After speaking with Lia on the phone, Lonnie Joy asked the nurse if an EpiPen was administered and if 911 was called. The nurse said “no” to both questions, according to WGN-TV.  

“I was shocked that a trained medical professional was either unaware of the most up-to-date protocol for anaphylaxis or unwilling to follow it,” Lonnie Joy said. “I told her administer the EpiPen and call 911 immediately. She said it would be done, and confirmed I would meet the ambulance at Northwest Community Hospital.”

But when Lonnie Joy arrived at the hospital before the ambulance, she was “astonished to find that no school representative had accompanied Lia to the ER.”

“It is ludicrous that a minor would be sent alone to a hospital during school hours with no personnel to represent her,” said Lonnie Joy. “I am horrified and saddened by the complete lack of common sense and compassion that predicated this decision.”

Although Lia’s parents are not suing the school district, Township High School District 214 says it is reviewing its rules and measures on allergies, food and medical treatment. If any changes are needed, “they will be enacted right away,” District 214 spokesperson Jennifer Delgado said.

“The district sincerely apologizes for our mistakes. Student safety is always of the utmost importance, and we are working with the family to remedy the situation,” said Delgado.

The school agreed to pay for Lia’s medical bills. The nurse responsible for the incident is still employed at the high school.

Sources: WGN-TV, Chicago Tribune / Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

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