When 11-year-old Oakley Debbs ate a piece of cake over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend one November, his family had no idea that it had the potential to kill him.
Oakley had a peanut allergy and when he realized his mistake, his family was alarmed but gave him Benadryl, which seemed to do the trick. His mom, Merrill, explained to WMTW that the allergy medicine had always worked in the past after an accidental consumption of nuts. She also shared that he felt "great" for the rest of the evening after taking the medicine. However, his condition took a drastic turn later that night and he went from playing with cousins and his twin sister to vomiting. Within minutes the child could no longer breathe.
"He was blue," Merrill said. "He was unconscious. My husband was holding him. He basically was gone." Four days later, Oakley died in the hospital and his parents are now speaking out to hopefully prevent other families from enduring the same tragedy.
The family shared their remorse for not knowing how dangerous their son's allergy really was and explained that if they had known, they would have taken immediate action. According to the family, they always thought Oakley's asthma was a much bigger threat and focused on that condition because they weren't aware of the severity of his allergy. "There was always an asthma plan. We didn't really have a defined nut plan which we're finding out needs to be really defined," Oakley's dad Robert said.
On the day of their son's death, Oakley's family started the Red Sneakers Foundation in honor of his favorite shoes. This organization was created to help raise awareness for food allergies as well as change labels on food packaging. "If someone wrote, 'Contains nuts, may kill you,' like cigarettes or something, people would understand it," Robert said.