Durbin touts new law to aid children

News-DemocratDecember 6, 2013 

— Sherri Smith of Belleville worries constantly about her son, Izzy Parmer, who has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts. On several occasions, administering emergency epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, while he was at school has saved his life, Smith said.

When Izzy was in the sixth-grade at Grant Middle School in Fairview Heights, he had a severe allergic reaction when playing dodgeball. Another classmate who had recently eaten something with peanuts got some residue on the ball, which then came in contact with Izzy's skin.

Izzy said his throat started to contract, and it was getting difficult to breathe. Luckily, Grant Middle School had EpiPens on hand, and Izzy, who is now a junior at Belleville East High School, was able to administer one to himself while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

"It makes a whole lot of difference," Izzy said of EpiPens.

"He would have died here at this school," Smith said, if it wasn't for the EpiPen. "It saved his life."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Springfield, along with Izzy and his mother were at Grant on Friday to discuss a Durbin bill that expands access to emergency epinephrine auto-injectors in schools. U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Highland Park, co-wrote the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law last month.

"A shot of epinephrine can literally save lives," Durbin said.

The national law builds on an Illinois law passed in 2011, which allows school nurses to administer epinephrine to any student suffering from a severe allegoric reaction. Durbin and Kirk's legislation allows all trained and authorized school employees -- not just school nurses -- to administer it and protects them from liability. It also rewards states that require schools to maintain a supply of epinephrine.

"Considering children spend about 30 percent of their time at school, this is an important place to get it right," Durbin said. "Currently, students with severe allergies can self administer it if they have a reaction, but what if the child forgets the epinephrine at home or what about the other children who don't know they have an allergy."

Memorial Hospital Emergency Room Director Dr. Savoy Brummer was also at Grant to discuss the importance of emergency epinephrine auto-injectors. "The beauty of an epinephrine pen is this life-saving medication can be given in real time at the point of an allergic reaction origination," he said.

This new law, Brummer said, "empowers the community to take control of these very life-threatening situations."

If administrated by mistake to a child not having a severe allergic reaction, Brummer said the side effects are minimal.

"We would rather err on the side of caution and deliver that administration as soon as possible," he said.

Grant School District 110 Superintendent Matt Stines praised the law. "It's truly going to be great for schools," Stines said.

About 30 percent of school children in District 110 have some kind of health issues including allergies to dairy, beans, eggs and peanuts, he said.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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