Thursday, October 23, 2008

Brian Hom: His Words

As I mentioned this week, Brian Hom spoke at a recent fundraiser my family attended.

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, 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.

Thank you!

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)
Again, I know you'll join me in offering condolences to Brian's family. With vigilance and the continuing support we give to FAAN and researchers, hopefully we can avoid tragedies like this in the future.


Unknown said...

Thank you for posting Mr. Hom's speech. Difficult to read (so disturbing) but important. Such a sad story. Thanks.

Elaine at Matters of the Heart) said...

Thank you for sharing this. Very sad to read but really well put and good information.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing his words. Such a sad loss for the family. -- Remember when you go on your vacation chef cards are a wonderful resource as well. I found this site a while back and I love how you can get all sorts of different languages: We have our own Chef Cards that I just made in Photoshop.

Anonymous said...

If you have a serious medical condition or even if you don't, you should consider choosing another vacation destion. Our organization was formed to warn people of the many unknown dangers of traveling to Mexico. Remember, this is a 3rd world country. Please visit our website:WWW.MEXICOVACATIONAWARENESS.COM

Anonymous said...

This is so tragic. It's amazing how quickly you adapt to your child's food allergies and it becomes part of your everyday routine. Reading this reminds me to never once let down my guard no matter how many months or years we've gone without experiencing a reaction. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a heartbreaking. Thank you for's always hard when someone else's tragedy becomes someone else's lesson. Hopefully BJ can somehow see or know just how much his story will help other children and families.

Marjorie said...

Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry for his loss and I am so appreciative of his sharing his story.

Anonymous said...


I am a 23 year old Candian female and I just finished SEARCHING the internet on Hospital information for the Mayan Riviera.

Why? Because I have LIFE/DEATH peanut allergy.
So I understand FULLY how scary it is to experience an anaphylactic shock. Sometimes I confuse having one by having a "panic attack" after "thinking" that I may have ate something.

I just wanted to say I AM SO SORRY, to hear your story, it touched my heart and gave me an awakening for a sense of awareness when I am travelling. I literally was envisioning your story like I was there, and can only imagine an ounce of the pain that you went through.

I have been to Mexico a total of 4 times. The first 3 times I was with my girlfriends and we were young, so I assume I was more "care-free."

However last year I went with my (Ex) boyfriend and I was having constant panic attacks, due to me not feeling comfotable with eating anything down there.

I always stick strictly with the plain salads, vegetables, fruit and pasta with plain tomato saunce. I NEVER eat the meat, casaroles, desserts, or anything that I might even have to question.

Everytime I've always brought Epi- Pens, and Benadryl etc. But it never made me feel as comfortable knowing if I had to go to the hospital....
Would they know english??
Would they know how to treat an anaphylactic shock??
If they didn't could I possibly die in a foreign country without my family?

These thought and emotions are very hard to deal with. So I've been doing a lot of research before planning my next trip down south.

I found this hospital in the Mayan Riviera "Hospiten Riviera Maya"

That is the link, from what I"ve read, it is a new bilingual hospital, with apparently state-of-the-art medical techology.

This is the hospital that I would attend if I ever needed to assistance. I do need to a little more research, but according to what I've read. I feel alot more comfortable about going.
There also is an ameri-med hospital in Cancun, which from what I've read, is an "americanized" hospital.

I was surprised to hear your son was eating dessert with a peanut allergy. I've never been able to indulge in desserts and restaurants, buffets etc because there is NEVER a guaruntee, cross contamination is ALWAYS an issue.

I've never reached the point of my throat cloasing. I had one "attack" last christmas, when I ate this battered fried shrimp with peanuts in it. I knew within ten minutes I had ate something, because I was having an allergic reaction in my mouth.
My gums especially were itching, tingly and very irritated. It was a strong reaction to hard to ignore.
I took my inhalers, my epi-pen and went to the hospital.

These signgs along with hives, itchiness, increased heart rate, weeziness in the chest, are all signs. However in my case, I always scan in my head what I ate, and give my self 15 - 20 mins to see if I"m just causing myself a panic attack.
If I haven't calmed down after that amount of time I know something is wrong.
HOwever sometimes I have put myself into such a panic, that I've thought I'm having a reaction when I'm really not.

Anyways I'm glad I came across your story, however sorry it was under such circumstances. My thought and prayers will be with you tonight.

Make your other children alert.
I hope maybe they can take something away from my letter.

I'm sorry such a happy and peaceful family vacation turned into such a tragedy.

God Bless

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear of your loss. My son is now a teenager and was diagnosed with a peanut allergy as a toddler. Carrying an epi-pen at all times is something I enforce. We are traveling to Cancun this summer and I am concerned epecially so after reading this posting. I have been looking for information on entering Mexico with epi pens and inhalers. I am concerned about legal implications since it contains a hidden syringe. Any advise out there? Your experience is my worst fear---God bless your family.

Always a concerned Mom.

Unknown said...

Why are we having these tragedies? Why are so many people (mostly children) developing food allergies? What is different in the past few years that is causing a food allergy epidemic? I searched for weeks and kept putting bits of information together. I have come up with two main causes of food allergies: vaccinations and leaky gut. Vaccines have minute traces of food protein from the culture medium and the mixed oils used in the adjuvant. The aluminum adjuvant greatly increases the body's immune response to protein. Any foods used in the culture medium and the oils used in the adjuvant are considered "inert" and do not appear on the package insert as ingredients. It is considered a trade secret and you can't write the government or the vaccine manufacturer to find out what they are. You can read patents for vaccine adjuvants and culture medium which is what I did. As the number of recommended vaccinations for children increased, so did the incidence of food allergies. The first allergy in children is casein (milk) allergy due to the casein and aluminum adjuvant in the Hepatitis B shot which is often given before the infant leaves the hospital but before 2 months of age. Since all babies are fed milk in some form immediately, this is the first allergy to be recognized. The next allergy to usually show up at about 3 months of age is soy allergy due to the soy peptone broth and aluminum adjuvant in the Pneumococcal Conjugate vaccine given at approximately 2 months of age. Since soy formula is frequently fed to infants, this allergy also shows up early. Peanut and nut allergies have shown up as early as 6 months of age in children. At 6 months of age, children can have had as many as 16 vaccinations several of which can contain mixed oils in the vaccine adjuvant. Jones-Mote Hypersensitivity Protein-Adjuvant Reactions says that "any pure protein mixed with adjuvant could induce an immune response." According to researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden "allergies were less likely in children who had had a bout of measles, but not in those who had been vaccinated against measles."

We need more research into the link between vaccinations and food allergies. We also need the end of trade secret ingredients in vaccines. We all want to know what is in the food we eat. For some children, their life depends on it. We need to know ALL the ingredients in our vaccines and medicines.