Friday, December 9, 2011

Letter writing campaign to demand emergency training in Quebec schools

Article from The Montreal Gazette, December 06, 2011:

MONTREAL - Following the death of a 6-year-old Montreal schoolgirl, parents of children with food allergies and support groups are calling on Quebec to make it law for all schools to institute training programs and emergency measures to deal with the potentially fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.

It’s estimated there are 72,000 students in the province who are potentially at risk.

First-grader Megann Ayotte Lefort was in the care of daycare staff at Saint-Germain Cousin elementary school in Montreal North while her parents were at an information session with her teacher in September 2010. Megann started showing signs of distress at 6:20 p.m., crying and asking for her father soon after taking small bite from a store-bought sandwich her mother gave her, but it was 25 minutes before staff gave her two puffs from her asthma inhaler when she had trouble breathing, a coroner’s report revealed. It was 40 minutes before staff came to get the parents to say their daughter wasn’t breathing.

When they got to Megann, the parents demanded the staff call 911. Paramedics managed to revive her and rush her to the hospital, but she was declared dead at 8:20 p.m.

“The school was well aware of Megann’s allergies and her asthma. ... Everything about that night was wrong. Everything,” Megann’s father Sylvain Lefort told Allergic Living magazine.

“The problem is that in Quebec the management of children with food allergies in schools is not centralized,” said Marie-Josée Bettez, a Quebec City lawyer who is the mother of a 13-year-old with numerous food allergies and the author of two books on the topic. “Each school board and each school has its own protocol, which means the protection afforded to each student varies from one school to another.”

Anaphylaxis is the most serious form of allergic reaction, and can lead to swelling of the airways or a drop in blood pressure, both of which can be fatal.

In 2005, Ontario created Sabrina’s law, named for Sabrina Shannon, a 13-year-old who died at her school in 2003 from an anaphylactic reaction. The legislation requires training for teachers and school staff, as well as a detailed plan for each school, as well as a plan tailored for each allergic child, with input from their parents and doctors.

This week, the Quebec Association of Food Allergies, Allergic Living and Asthme et Allergies Québec launched a campaign to create a similar law here. They’re calling for a standardized training program at all schools with students with food allergies to instruct staff in the proper techniques to follow.

Because of the rapidity with which a reaction can occur, caregivers need to give victims an adrenalin shot immediately via an epinephrine auto-injector, or EpiPen, then call 911, and give a second epinephrine shot in five to 15 minutes if the reaction continues. Patients must go to hospital right away because the reaction can worsen.

All schools of the Commission scolaire de Montréal, the city’s largest school board, are instructed to follow the protocols set out by the province’s health board, school board spokesman Alain Perron said. Parents have to tell the school if their child has any allergies, and if so, supply the school with two EpiPens. In Montreal’s multicultural mix, where many students can’t speak English or French and are often too young to know how to treat the reactions, it’s especially important for parents to supply detailed information, Perron said.

With 11,000 meals served every day in CSDM schools, the multitude of allergies present and the possibility of children dipping into the meals of their peers, it’s impossible to shield allergic children from all hazards, the board notes on its website.

Bettez’s son Christopher is allergic to eggs, nuts, dairy products, mustard, chicken, turkey, kiwi, and fish, among other foods. What is harmless for most can be poison to him, causing an allergic reaction “that can very sudden and very violent, and where the margin to act is very limited,” Bettez said. She knows from experience.

“When you’re rushing to the emergency room with your child in that condition, it’s very difficult,” she said.

At the start of every school year, Bettez had to meet with school administrators, teachers and staff to explain the proper procedures. But not everyone has written two books on the subject and is in a position to instruct the teachers, she said, which is why there is a need for a an overarching law. That Quebec does not have one yet is in part due to the fact the public has not pushed hard enough, she said.

In response to Megann’s death, and the concerns of parents expressed for years, Allergic Living magazine recently launched a write-in campaign on its website,, calling for an anaphylaxis law for Quebec schools. Parents are asked to write Education Minister Line Beauchamp and Health Minister Yves Bolduc.

Reached yesterday by The Gazette, an aide for Beauchamp said she would not be commenting at this time. Bolduc’s spokesperson said only that the minister had taken note of the campaign.

The magazine was hoping to generate 2,500 letters. To date, 855 have been sent.


Please support this cause and write a letter. These are the email addresses to send the letters to:

Thanks for your support



1 comment:

  1. Sample Letter (this is quite similar to the one I sent, mine was a little more personalized due to my own allergy, feel free to modify accordingly to your situation)

    Email addresses:

    Dear Minister Beauchamp and Minister Bolduc,

    I am writing this letter to request that you help support the public mission to make it a law for all schools to institute training programs and emergency measures to deal with the potentially fatal allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. As you must be aware, in September 2010, First-grader Megann Ayotte Lefort died while in the care of teachers at her after-school elementary daycare program. This tragedy could have been avoided had the teachers been properly prepared to manage her anaphylactic reaction. It is the hope that you will consider this topic a priority and address it immediately as there are thousands of children with food allergies in Quebec. Teachers are trained to handle different types of situations, and anaphylaxis should not be an exception. A simple training session and emergency measure plan can potentially save the life of another child.