September 12, 2008

Legacy of Nut Allergy Victim Jane, an Award for Raising Awareness

By Lisa Smyth

THE deadline for nominations for an award created in the memory of Northern Ireland's only known fatal nut allergy victim is fast approaching.

Entrance applications for the Jane McVeigh Memorial Cup should be received by Allergy NI - a charity dedicated to offering support to those suffering from allergies, as well as campaigning for greater awareness of the potentially deadly consequences of an allergic reaction - before the end of the month.

Jane, a 17-year-old student at Victoria College in Belfast, died while attending a friend's 18th birthday party in December 2006 as a result of anaphylaxis due to nut allergy.

The south Belfast teenager, who inadvertently ate a piece of satay chicken, desperately attempted to inject adrenalin into her thigh using an EpiPen, but the needle bent and she collapsed. Despite attempts by friends and the medical profession, who arrived at the scene in minutes, the teenager never regained consciousness.

Her tragic death threw the issue of allergies into the spotlight and prompted her father John, and the province's only immunologist, Dr David Edgar, to call for the development of modernised equipment for the administration of life-saving adrenalin in the case of a severe reaction, as well as a wider public knowledge of how such equipment is used.

Ulster's top doctor, Dr Michael McBride, has pledged his support to the creation of the award, which will be given to a young person who is felt to have made an invaluable contribution to efforts to raise awareness of allergies.

He said: "We have all been deeply saddened by Jane's death. And yet her death has inspired us to look again at how an allergy affects our lives and those dear to us.

"As Chief Medical Officer, it has focused me on what more can be done to raise awareness of severe allergies and management of anaphylaxis - not just by healthcare professionals and ambulance services but also by schools, siblings, parents and friends.

He continued: "I earnestly hope that Jane's family will take some comfort from the fact that her circumstances helped to inform the new guidance, training and promotional material for healthcare professionals.

"Jane was an extraordinary girl who has left an important legacy to us all. It is fitting that this award should be created in Jane McVeigh's name."

The award, which encourages children and young people to raise awareness of allergies, is open to everyone up to 21 years of age.

A spokesman from the charity said: "We felt strongly that Jane should be remembered and have created this award where the winner will receive a silver trophy. Jane's family are really pleased that we have chosen to remember their daughter in this way."

The activity for which the person is nominated needs to be verified in writing by an independent person, such as a school teacher, youth leader or other responsible adult. The committee of Allergy NI, an independent person, and a McVeigh family member will judge who should receive the award, which will be presented in October. For further information, email [email protected] or telephone 028 9443 3062.

Originally published by Lisa Smyth [email protected]

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