I managed to obtain his email address to thank him for speaking. I also asked if I could post a transcript of his talk. He was kind enough to oblige. It's long, but I hope you read the entire thing:
Dear Family, Friends and FAAN supporters,
First of all I want Thank everyone for coming out to support this fundraising event Strike Out Food Allergies. I was invited to share the story of my 18 year old son BJ Hom who passed away this summer on July 1, 2008 from an allergic reaction from peanuts while vacationing in Mexico.
BJ was a loving son and brother and a good loyal friend to all who knew him. As our 1st born son he was very quiet, kind, and never asked for much and was very content with a simple life. For those who knew BJ, he was known for his shy smile. If you tried to make him laugh, he would look at you indirectly and crack you a small smile.
Unfortunately, on our first day of vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico where we had planned to celebrate BJ’s 18th birthday and his graduation from High School, we had dinner at the resort restaurant at Royal Club Solaris and he died from Anaphylactic Shock which is a severe food allergy from peanuts. We had landed at 7pm and checked into the Resort at 8pm and just put our suitcase in our room without unpacking at 8:30pm and because it was getting late and the restaurants would be closing soon, we ate dinner at Pancho’s around 8:45pm and finished dinner by 9:20pm. We walked around the resort to look at the pool and beach.
Suddenly BJ told me in his last words to me, “Dad my throat hurts, can you buy me some cough drops”, so I bought him some at the gift shop. Afterward, he went walking with his Mom and told her “Mom, I do not feel well, can we go to the room”. All of a sudden on his way to the elevator, his lips turned blue, his face pale, and he was grabbing his chest as he could no longer breathe so he collapsed in the lobby. By the time I caught up with Kathy and BJ, he was unconscious and the hotel staff was trying to give first aid assistance. The paramedics came within 10 minutes of the call by the front desk. All attempts were made to revive him with oxygen and CPR. The paramedics gave us some hope that BJ was breathing and it appeared he was going to be ok. But finally the doctor came and I asked him if he was ok and he turned to me and said sorry and closed BJ’s eyes and covered his head with the blanket. This was the worst and heartbreaking day in our lives for Kathy and I. It was like some reached into our chest and ripped out our hearts. To this day I still can’t believe it really happened.
We were always careful of what BJ ate. He would normally get hives and swelling and Benadryl would cure him. This time he died within minutes after eating a dessert at the Resort restaurant.
Loss of a Child is a parent’s worst nightmare. Sudden death even adds to the pain, as you have no time to prepare yourself for the death. You never plan to bury your own children. It is such an un-natural event. It is always thought that children will bury their parents. Only another parent who has lost a child can really sympathize with the pain and sorrow and long drawn out grieving process. I could not wish this onto my worst enemy. In this case, the lost of my son to peanut allergy and witnessing his death in front of our eyes was horrific. We were totally helpless. I still remember like yesterday being by his side in the delivery room with my wife when he was born and I will always remember being by his side with my wife when he died. The total stress, pain, and sorrow of setting up the funeral services and burial within days of his death were unbearable. We miss BJ dearly but we know he is at a better place and that someday we will be together again. BJ was the wind beneath our wings. I have told my wife and 2 other kids if you find a penny on the ground this is a sign from BJ that he is ok. So my word of advice to parents is to cherish the time you have with you kids, and don’t take for granted that they will always be with you. Remember we are all on loan to be on earth and God can take you at any time when it is your time to go to heaven. One thing I do not regret is I always put my family first and so I was always there for my son BJ and he knew it.
What I want to do here is warn parents, children, family and friends of the dangers of Food allergies. Food allergies are serious. 100 – 200 people die annually from peanut allergies and there are over 15,000 emergency room visits each year in the US alone. 1% of the US Population has peanut allergies which is 1 in 100 or approximately 3 million people. Outside the US the statistics could be higher as they have less food allergies controls and do not correctly report cause of death. For instance in Mexico, they reported BJ’s cause of death as heart attack even though it was confirmed by autopsy as Anaphylactic shock. Food Allergies are as fatal as a gun. You can die in minutes. You cannot assume that you will just get hives or swelling. Have an EPI pen ready at any time. It will give you an extra 10 to 15 minutes to get you to the emergency room.
If you eat foods that cause your throat to itch, or cause hives on your body or you have difficulties breathing, I encourage you to get tested by an allergist and to be prescribed an EPI pen. An EPI pen will combat the food allergy to allow you 10 – 15 minutes to survive while Emergency service arrives and takes you to the hospital. (Demonstrate EPI pen trainer). Food Allergies start as soon as you are a baby. My friend found out that when she ate peanut butter and breast fed her baby that the baby would spit up and be very fussy. Teenager are most at risk as they feel they can go without carrying an EPI pen but have a tendency to eat more away from home and to be more experimental. Really everyone with food allergies are at risk, if you read Emily’s story at foodallergyangel.com, 2 years ago she ate her favorite sandwich at Subway, but died at age 13 from cross contamination from peanut butter cookies baked at the sandwich shop. So cross-contamination can occur at any restaurant and even cooking at home.
We all have to be vigilant at stopping food allergies. There are no antidotes or medicine to prevent poisoning from Food allergies. The only cure is avoidance. You are not safe because you currently have no food allergies as they can come at a later age. My son Brandon has been eating peanut butter and sesame seeds all his life but was just recently tested after the death of his brother and now he shows severe reactions to peanuts from the result of a blood test. If you look closely at the poster board in Memory of those who had fatal reactions to food allergy you will see a woman who at age 66 recently died from a peanut allergy. You would think by that age you would have the safety measures in place to prevent death for peanut allergies. There have been many adult food allergy cases also which are related to the accumulated toxins getting into body over time from genetically modified foods. Food allergies are on the rise with a 700% increase in the last 10 years. There are many theories that it is related to: 1) increased vaccination given to our babies at a young age which started in 1990 with excessive mercury, 2) Food additives, 3) Genetically modified foods, and 4) water and air pollution.
Halloween is less than a week away, I encourage you not pass out any candies that contain peanuts or have been processed on machines that have had peanuts. If you or your children want peanut candies please buy them for yourself as many the young kids in your neighborhood have not been tested and can be poisoned by the peanuts.
My son died from food allergies but I am on a crusade to help protect other families and friends from suffering this great loss like my family is experiencing. Loss of a child is a parent’s worst nightmare.
So parents, children, family and friends please be very careful about the foods you eat. Check all labeling on food packages. Get tested if you can because even though you may not have food allergies now you may get them later. BJ’s brothers Brandon and Steven both have the same peanut and sesame seed allergy. Steven luckily broke out in hives in Mexico the day that BJ died and was administered and EPI pen and Benadryl. Brandon we did not know he had peanut allergies until his brother BJ died and we got him testedu as he had been eating peanuts for 15 years with no reactions. Kathy and I both have no food allergies so even if parents do not have food allergies your kids can still get it. I encourage schools to have plans to accommodate peanut free areas. Halloween is just 1.5 weeks away. I encourage you not to pass out peanut candies as many of the children Trick or Treating and do not know that they have peanut allergies. Be extra careful when traveling internationally about the foods you eat as the packaging and labeling requirements are less strict than in the US and the emergency response can be much slower as every second counts to save your loved ones life. Also the laws are different in international countries for wrongful death, so there is less fear by businesses to protect the consumer. Also the horror stories of trying to export a loved ones remains from another country in a timely manner is a nightmare. We experienced this first hand dealing with the Police Report, Autopsy, the Foreign Mortuary for embalming, Foreign Laws and requirements for air shipping remains, and Foreign Death Certificates.
Final words of wisdom – “If only I knew” for those with food allergies
1. Get tested for food allergies at the first sign of any reaction
2. Never leave home without your EPI pen
3. Get medical alert bracelets as every minute counts from an emergency response team
4. Anaphylaxis shock can look like Asthma – use EPI pen immediately – side effects mild versus death
5. If you have food allergies, do not eat at Buffets
6. Minimize international travel as laws do not protect the consumer and emergency response is not as efficient as the US with 911
7. Minimize eating out as Cross-contamination can occur anywhere
8. Read all labeling packaging allergic ingredients and heed the warning when it says it has been processed on equipment containing peanuts, tree nuts, etc.
Thanks for listening and may God protect your Family and Friends from the deadly food allergies. At this time I would like to request a moment of silence in Loving Memory of my Son Brian James Hom II.
If anyone has any specific questions or concerns, please feel free to talk to me or my wife.
As I mentioned, we're supposed to be traveling to a resort in Mexico next year. I asked Brian for any advice he had for traveling to Mexico with a peanut allergy. Here's what he said (in addition to those he listed in his talk):
- try to determine where the nearest hospital is in relation to your resort so you can determine response times
- have emergency cards printed for paramedics (not just chef cards) so you can communicate the possible emergency or medical conditions
- determine if there is on site medical care at your resort (and their hours)
- bring benadryl (they didn't have any at his hotel gift shop)