Parent donates allergy kits to Mokena school district
Mokena resident Brandon Wilson’s Epi-NOW! emergency kits may help alleviate some District 159 parents’ fears about potentially fatal allergic reactions by their children at school.
Wilson, the father of a second-grader with severe nut allergies, created the emergency kits to be mounted on the walls in school buildings, much as fire extinguishers and defibrillators are.
The kit contains an auto-injector that’s used to deliver a dose of epinephrine to quickly treat a life-threatening allergic reaction by opening the airway and stabilizing blood pressure.
During an Epi-NOW! presentation at Wednesday’s school board meeting, Wilson said he’s donating the kits for all three district schools.
Wilson’s presentation came in the wake of a medical emergency earlier in November when Maddie Matejka, 8, had a severe allergic reaction to a third-grade classmate’s trail mix snack — prompting District 159 Supt. Omar Castillo to hold a round-table discussion with parents and revisit the district’s allergy policies.
Maddie’s parents, Lori and Brian Matejka, who did not attend the round-table discussion, requested that the district become peanut free.
At Wednesday’s meeting, they changed their request, asking district officials instead to “educate not only the staff and students but parents of the student body about the severity of these allergies that affect our kids,” Brian Matejka said.
“To ask for support and understanding is (hard), but to ask for assistance with education or to be educated, I implore you,” Matejka said.
Castillo said the district was using Maddie’s “emergency situation” as an opportunity to review its allergy procedures “to ensure that our students are safe and continue to be safe in our buildings.” He said District 159 currently has 49 students with documented severe food allergies.
Castillo said the district would re-evaluate the schools’ “nut-free zones”; review the sanitizing policy at nut-free lunchroom tables; re-evaluate cleaning procedures in the buildings and on buses and update its plan to accommodate disabled and ill students and the medical information for children with allergies.
He said adding paper towels in the bathrooms has made a difference in encouraging children to wash their hands, reducing a possible source of contamination if traces of allergens aren’t removed after eating their lunches.
District 159 parents have been resent letters about food and nut allergies, he said, and all staff will watch a basic online presentation about how to use an auto-injector.
Castillo said the district is also working “hand-in-hand” with the Mokena Fire Protection District so paramedics can provide professional guidance for nurses, staff and parents in the district.
The district also will review agreements with outside groups that bring in food when they use a school.