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Friday
Mar152013

College Freshman with Peanut Allergy Dies After Eating Cookie

Robin Fitzpatrick(NEW YORK) -- Robin Fitzpatrick never knew peanuts could kill her son.

Cameron Groezinger-Fitzpatrick, 19, a college freshman who suffered from a severe nut allergy, died last Friday after eating a cookie that contained peanut oil.  His friend had sworn it didn't.

"We were all so shocked, it came out of nowhere," Fitzpatrick told ABC News.  "For 19 years, he had been knock-on-wood safe."

The Plymouth, Mass., native was first diagnosed with a nut allergy when he was 8, after projectile-vomiting "across the room" at a Chinese restaurant, his mother said.

Groezinger-Fitzpatrick, an international business major at Bryant University, was on spring break and had only been home for two hours when the incident happened. He and his friend were out driving and bought cookies.  Groezinger-Fitzpatrick's friend ate one first and said he didn't taste any hint of peanut.

"He said, 'Ah, the hell with it, I'm sure it's fine,'" the friend recalled Groezinger-Fitzpatrick as saying, Robin Fitzpatrick said.

Within minutes, the teen was home; it was about 6:30 that evening, and he was doubled over and turning black and blue, his mother said.

"I can't breathe, I can't breathe," he had said.

Groezinger-Fitzpatrick hadn't unpacked yet so his mom couldn't find his Epi-Pen -- an epinephrine autoinjector.  She had one in her cupboard but it had expired two months earlier.  First responders told her over the phone that she shouldn't use it.

A fire chief who lived next door brought over an Epi-Pen, which was administered to the teen.

Once at the hospital, 15 people tag-teamed to perform CPR on the dying teen.  For two hours, they tried to revive him.  At 9 p.m., he was declared dead.  Fitzpatrick stayed with her son's body until 1 a.m.

"I didn't know you can die from nut allergies.  I feel foolish," she said.

At least three million American children suffer from a food or digestive allergy, and the problem is growing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Between 1997 and 2007, the figure rose 18 percent.

Severe food allergies stem from a combination of genes, environment and possibly diet, said Dr. Kari Nadeau, associate professor of allergies and immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

"We need more research to be done to help save lives," she said.  "We don't have all the answers now."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio