Cameron Jean-Pierre passed away on January 1, 2019, at 11 years old when he inhaled airborne proteins of cooking fish. His parents, Steven and Jody, had no idea that just inhaling the protein could cause this tragedy.
Cameron was diagnosed with an allergy to fish at age 4. He had allergic asthma and was also allergic to peanuts, lima beans and wheat. His parents, as well as family on both sides, were diligent to ensure Cameron did not eat or touch fish. They also made sure his asthma was controlled.
On New Year’s Day, Cameron visited different family members. His extended family thought he had returned home and didn’t expect him again, so they cooked saltfish – a popular Caribbean dish. He first got a haircut with his dad. But when they returned to his grandma’s house, he soon started wheezing. Cameron asked his dad for the nebulizer, but it provided no relief.
“Daddy, I can’t breathe,” Cameron said. “Daddy, I love you.”
“Try to relax,” said Steven. “Take deep breaths.”
“Daddy, I think I’m dying,” Cameron said as he kissed his dad twice.
“Don’t say that!” Steven shouted. “The ambulance is coming.
Just hold on.”
The ambulance arrived and gave Cameron epinephrine, but he perished at the hospital.
“I feel like I was cheated. I want a do-over,” Jody said. “If we are blessed to have another child, I will do it differently. I will do my own research to ensure we have all the facts.”
We are heartbroken from this loss. Our goal is to better educate the public to prevent this type of tragedy from happening. Many people don’t know it is possible for fish proteins to become airborne while fish is cooking. This can trigger an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to fish. Having asthma can also increase the severity of anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction.
Steven and Jody cared for Cameron as best as they could with the information they were given. This story shows how important it is for people managing food allergies and asthma to get the education and support they need.
If you have asthma and food allergies, carry both your quick-relief inhaler and epinephrine auto-injectors with you at all times. And if you have a reaction and aren’t sure if it is asthma or anaphylaxis, use epinephrine. Epinephrine can treat both anaphylaxis and an asthma attack.