After Thanksgiving dessert son starts to vomit and turns blue: Moments later, mom discovers fatal mistake

It was Thanksgiving in Maine when 11-year-old Oakley Debbs was enjoying a vacation with his family. Despite having asthma and food allergies, Oakley was a straight-A student and a star athlete.

Oakley’s family had ordered a Thanksgiving basket for the occasion, which included a selection of treats. While in Maine, Oakley decided to indulge in a piece of pound cake from the basket.

What happened next was a heartbreaking turn of events that prompted Oakley’s family and friends to start a campaign to raise awareness and prevent similar incidents from happening to others.

Oakley was an avid tennis player, footballer, soccer player, and even a marathon runner, despite his asthma and nut allergies. His family described him as a “brave and strong warrior” for battling these conditions.

On November 24, Oakley decided to have a piece of the pound cake that was left out on the kitchen table. His mom, Merrill Debbs, mentioned that Oakley always checked food labels and didn’t see any signs of nuts in the cake.

“He thought it was just a piece of cake,” said his father, Robert Debbs. “But when he ate it, he came over and said it might have contained nuts.” After his mother tried some, she agreed that it tasted like nuts, later determined to be walnuts.

“Merrill did what we usually do, she gave him Benadryl [pills],” said Robert. “And he came back and said he felt fine.” At that point, his only symptom was a single hive on his lip.

However, shortly after, Oakley began experiencing chest pain and started vomiting. His parents immediately called 911, but in the 10 minutes it took for the ambulance to arrive, Oakley’s airways had closed, and his heart had stopped beating.

The family had to come to terms with this tragic loss and understand why Oakley couldn’t be saved.

“I don’t think my beautiful, amazing, talented, adorable son should have passed away,” expressed Merrill.

In memory of Oakley, the family started the Red Sneaker Foundation, which aims to educate people about recognizing the signs of anaphylaxis, an acute life-threatening allergic reaction.

Oakley loved his red sneakers, and the family decided to use them as a powerful symbol to increase education and awareness about food allergies within communities.

Experts recommend immediate use of the drug epinephrine, even in cases of mild allergic reactions.

“My child was a rock star, a good, good kid,” shared Merrill. “In my heart of hearts, I always knew that he would make a difference in his life—I just didn’t know it would be after he passed away. So, the legacy of Oakley is a big part of my driving force.”

Let’s share this story to raise awareness of the dangers of food allergies and how we can prevent such tragic incidents from happening again.