Elijah Silvera’s legacy continues to save lives as the law named for him was introduced this week in the Pennsylvania General Assembly after it was enacted in New York and Illinois.
Elijah was three-years-old on November 3, 2017, when he was attending daycare in Harlem. Despite knowledge of his severe milk allergy, a daycare worker gave him a grilled cheese sandwich which triggered a severe reaction.
Elijah was left in throes of anaphylaxis while school administrators called his mother and waited for her to pick him up. She then had to carry the child 10 blocks to the nearest hospital because the school had not called emergency services.
By the time Elijah arrived at the pediatric ER of Harlem Hospital, it was too late to save him.
Elijah’s parents, Thomas Silvera and Dina Hawthorne-Silvera, founded the Elijah-Alavi Foundation whose work spearheaded the passage of “Elijah’s Law” in their home state of New York in 2019. The law mandates early education programs in New York must follow state food allergy guidelines and protocols to prevent, recognize and respond quickly to life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. The Silveras have since expanded their efforts to bring Elijah’s Law to states nationwide.
Yesterday, State Representative Ryan Warner introduced a bill modeled on NY’s Elijah’s Law to protect young children in the state who have severe food allergies.
“It’s amazing how many more children are becoming allergic to food every year. It’s actually quite alarming,” said Warner.
It’s estimated 15.8 million children — 1 in 13 — are coping with food allergies and many don’t know they are allergic until they suffer a reaction. That’s precisely what happened to Warner’s son Ben, only 4 years old at the time, who had a life-threatening reaction to a tree nut.
“It was a summer day and my son had picked up a cashew,” Warner said. “He was sitting down having lunch with my wife, and she was eating cashews, and he said ‘Mommy, can I have one of these?’”
His mom told him no, but the very act of holding the cashew — not even eating it — elicited a serious reaction.
“Within 10 minutes his face began to swell and got red. It was very scary,” Warner said.
They immediately called emergency services and subsequently, an ambulance rushed Ben to the hospital. Luckily, their quick action saved their son. Now, Warner is looking to help save other children’s lives by proposing new legislation requiring schools and childcare settings to have an emergency response plan in place for severe allergic reactions.
“What I’m trying to do is expand that especially into daycare, when children are younger and may not be aware yet [that they have an allergy], and having the workers there be able to ID an anaphylactic reaction because things can go south very quickly,” said Warner.