Lily Brennan, a 16 year-old with nut allergies, was out for a day at the beach in last week with friends. That evening, walking in Vancouver, her lips started swelling and her throat grew tight after eating a gelato she thought was nut-free. Recognizing the symptoms, she realized she wasn’t carrying her EpiPen with her and knew her reaction could be life-threatening.
Already crying and panicked, she and her friends ducked into a local pharmacy.
“I explained to the man behind the counter what had happened, and that I could feel my throat closing up,” she said. “I knew I needed an EpiPen.”
Because she could coherently answer the pharmacist’s questions, he determined she wasn’t experiencing anaphylaxis. Instead of epinephrine, he gave her two tablets of the antihistamine Benadryl which would do nothing to ward off the reaction.
“He told me to wait and see if that helped and if things got worse he would call 911,” said Lily.
When she returned to the counter with increasingly worsening symptoms, the pharmacist told the girl he couldn’t find an auto-injector. Lily called her mom who instructed her friend to call emergency services and put the store manager on the line.
“I actually had to roar at the manager … I had to threaten them with legal action,” said Lily’s mom, Caroline Brennan. “I was horrified.”
“And that’s when I heard scrambling and shouting, ‘Grab an EpiPen, grab one off the shelf!'”
Lily was administered an epinephrine injection and paramedics arrived shortly afterward to take her to the hospital.
Ms Brennan filed a complaint with the province’s College of Pharmacists over what she calls “horrifying and heartbreaking” treatment her daughter received. The company, London Drugs, is reviewing the incident.
Lily was lucky as she was close to a pharmacy when the onset of symptoms occurred and – despite what can only be described as a bone-headed response from the pharmacist – received epinephrine in time. Not every child who forgets their auto-injector will be that lucky.
Please remind your teen to always “Take 2” epinephrine auto-injectors along everywhere, every time. Click here to download your free set of flyers to post around the house, because the sooner your child is administered epinephrine in an emergency, the better the outcome.