The holidays are usually expected to be happy times so when there is a tragedy it’s even worse in a time of rejoicing. This Thanksgiving Holidays Oakley Debbs who was 11 years old ate a harmless, so he thought, dessert…
Sadly he died, a son, a brother, a friend and a teammate, now gone, everyone is wearing his favorite color, red, to honor him and remind others not to let it happen to them.
A student that achieved straight A’s across the board and from West Palm Beach, Florida, Oakley was a real top athlete even though he suffered from allergies and asthma. He adored football, soccer, tennis and was an avid marathon runner too!
He was on vacation with his family over the Thanksgiving period, in Maine. His family and relatives ordered a gift basket, it had ham and pound cake for dessert!
It was in the evening of Nov. 24th and Merrill Debbs, Oakley’s mother, said:
“We didn’t even see the cake; it had just been opened up and set on the island of the kitchen”
Oakley was allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, so he was good at checking labels, but in this instance, he didn’t see any nuts in the slice and ate it…
Robert Dobbsn, the father, said:
“He thought it was just a piece of cake”
“But when he ate it, he come over and said it might have contained nuts”
His mother tried a little cake and decided that, yes, it tasted nutty, like it had walnuts in the cake in some fachon.
“Merrill did what we usually do, she gave him Benadryl [pills]”
“And he came back and said he felt fine”
At the time, he just had once hive on hos lip, nothing too concerning, but that was about to significantly change!
While he was getting ready for bed he noticed a tightness and pain in his chest, but he felt like his breathing was just fine. About fifteen minutes later he was violently vomiting!
His mom thought that once he had got what was bothering him off his stomach he would be just fine again., but he just kept getting sick…
His Mom said:
“He started throwing up and from there it was a tornado of issues”
“We called 911. By the time the ambulance got there – about 10 minutes later – he was blue”
Around an hour and half later, after eating the cake, his airwaves had completely closed shut and his heart had given up without the vital oxygen it needed to keep going…
The family had an emergency plan for his asthma, but there was no plan for his food allergy, if they only knew that his death could have been prevented.
They had been told by medical professionals that his nut allergy was mild and just needed to be treated with antihistamines, they had an EpiPen but had never been educated on the signs and symptoms of when to use it.
The emergency medics arrived they gave him two successive doses of epinephrine but it was too late, he was officially pronounced dead four days later in the hospital. It’s such a shame he died, with a little more knowledge the parents could have saved his life.
“I wasn’t aware, no one told me”
“I don’t think my beautiful, amazing, talented, adorable son should have passed away”
She says that they didn’t know that epinephrine was the only first-line drug for anaphylaxis. The family is quickly learning they aren’t the only ones that don’t know things like this.
The family founded the Red Sneaker Foundation to do their best to turn tragedy into something positive, also to help educate others as to these dangers.
People throughout their community are wearing red sneakers and hair ribbons to show their support for their friend and teammate Oakley Debbs.
When you have mild symptoms to an allergy, medical professionals recommend epinephrine be used immediately, it can be the difference between life and death!
Food Allergy Research & Education has a free Emergency Plan that you can download and use with your doctor in case of something like an allergic reaction.
His mom said:
“The child of mine, he was a rock star, he was a good, good kid …And always in my heart of hearts, I knew that he would make a difference in his life – I just didn’t know it would be after he passed away. So that’s a big part of my driving force – the legacy of Oakley.”