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Life after Karanbir Singh Cheema

It was 11:30, June 28th 2017 when everything changed for Karanbir Singh Cheema. He was 13 years old. Only 13 when 2 fellow classmates were involved in flicking a piece of cheese at him triggering his dairy allergy causing an anaphylactic reaction so severe he, unfortunately, passed away 10 days later at Great Ormond Street hospital. He was a child described by his family as being so bright, “he could have been anything he wanted.” And he wasn’t a child who negligent with his health either, someone who didn’t take precautions to protect himself from an allergic reaction, rather he had been known to introduce himself to him with, “Hi, my name is Karan and I am allergic to Dairy and Pollen.”

school education

What went wrong?

There were 2 main issues in this story:

1.Inadequate Medical Attention:

  • · There was only 1 Epipen in his medical box although he needed 2.
  • · The Epipen that was administered was 11 months out of date.
  • · A second Epipen wasn’t given because the school staff thought a 10-minute gap was required between doses.
  • · The emergency personnel were insufficiently informed of Karan’s current medical situation so they treated him ineffectively; they were simply told, “it was a just an allergic reaction”.
  1. Insufficient School Allergy education:
  • · One of the boys involved in the incident were unaware Karan had allergies at all.
  • · The second boy involved in the incident knew Karan had a dairy allergy but was unaware that, “cheese was dairy.”
  • · The second boy was unaware that a person could die from an allergic reaction and assumed he would, “break out in a rash or a fever”. 

Mary Hassells statement:

A month ago, during the inquest hearing, the corner; Mary Hassells gave a very powerful and poignant statement, not only about the medical facts of the case but of who, in her opinion, shares responsibility. In her statement, she holds the school with a significant amount of accountability for the fatal incident as they failed to raise awareness among their student body of the serious nature of Karan’s allergies and the care and safeguards that they should take to ensure he avoids contact with his allergens. Further, she points out that the pupils that were involved in the incident did not intend to cause serious harm and were oblivious to the potential consequences supporting the notion that there was a missed opportunity by the school to properly educate their students about allergy care.

Shattered Pieces:

After all the dust has settled we are left with 2 painful tragedies. On one hand, we have a bright, friendly and charming boy, full of potential and just at the start of his life, gone from this world forever, after an incident that in its wake leaves many questions of- what if?!?!? More-so he leaves behind a family with a gaping hole in their hearts and grief that seems to fill their whole world.

On the other hand, we have 2 boys. Two, 13-year-old boys, who have to live every day of the rest of their lives knowing that they unintentionally killed a fellow classmate. They didn’t know that when they pulled the trigger, the bullet was made out of cheese. They didn’t know that one, childish, silly act of food throwing in a lunchroom could end with such deadly consequences. This wasn’t a bad dare gone wrong- it wasn’t even immature alcohol activity, it was lunchtime.

Had they known, had they realised, been educated- just a little bit more- this entire tragedy could have been prevented.

And that’s the most painful part- that it was preventable.

What can be done now

Parents of children have been calling for a long time now for schools to properly educate their child’s classmates about their allergies, asking for the school medical team to be updated with proper allergy emergency procedure. About one-third of children with allergies have reported being bullied about their condition. Bullied- about allergies, a condition they can’t control, have live restrictedly because of and could have serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.

The reason they are being bullied is not that their classmates are bad kids, but because their classmates just don’t understand. They don’t understand why there is one kid in the class who always seems to ruin a pizza party, or stops them from a trip to a cheese factory. Why the whole class has to adapt around one classmate who seems to take the teachers attention away from them just to be ‘the teacher’s pet.”

As depressing as it seems to be, action only seems to occur after a tragedy like this one, with administrators now realising that playing a more active role in the allergy education of their schools is not just the ‘right thing to do’ but their duty for the protection of all their student body and a potentially life and death situation.

Let’s join together, making a force that can’t be ignored, parents of children with allergies and those without- united together working toward the common goal- t ensure that each child will come home safely at the end of the day to his family.

So we are not just left with the words of two, 13-year-old boys- “I’m sorry for what I did.”

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