A family in New York City is grieving after their 3-year-old son died Friday — because he ate a grilled cheese sandwich.
Elijah Silvera, 3, died Nov. 3 after his family said on a GoFundMe page that an adult at his pre-K in Harlem, New York City, gave him the sandwich “despite them knowing and having documented that he has a severe allergy to dairy.”
“Elijah went into anaphylactic shock and was taken to the Pediatric ER at Harlem Hospital, where, tragically, they were unable to save him,” read the GoFundMe page. “Elijah leaves behind his heartbroken mother, Dina, father, Thomas, and his 5-year-old brother Sebastian, as well as dozens of friends and family members who all mourn the loss of his precious young life.”
Officials from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told CBS2 that it was shutting down the school — named the Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services — and that the department would continue to “aggressively investigate what happened and whether the facility could have done something differently to prevent this tragedy.”
The school is also conducting its own investigation into the matter, CBS2 reported.
One of Elijah’s family members told Pix11 that the school was given documentation about the 3-year-old’s severe allergies to dairy, but they gave him the grilled cheese sandwich anyway.
Now the little boy’s family said they “want justice for Elijah” and are pushing for a third-party to look at what happened at the school and hospital to see “where, if any, breakdowns occurred” that might have resulted in their son’s death, according to the GoFundMe page.
“There are protocols that both the hospital and preschool must follow,” they wrote. “We want to find out exactly what caused Elijah’s death.”
New York City officials said they are going to help families find other programs after closing the The Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services, which has a universal pre-K program, according to the New York Daily News.
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, 5.9 million people under the age of 18 — or 1 in 13 children — have some sort of food allergy. That means that there’s about two kids in every classroom with an allergy, FARE says. And allergies are on the rise: there’s been a 21 percent increase in children with peanut allergies since just 2010, according to a study from researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Those allergies can often have serious consequences, as 200,000 people each year need “emergency medical care” because of allergic reactions to food, FARE wrote, translating roughly to one emergency room visit every three minutes.
Elijah’s family lamented that their son’s death was “completely preventable” if more had been done to protect children with allergies.
Now, they have to get through Christmas.
“It is an unimaginable time for everyone who loved Elijah, in particular for his 5-year-old brother Sebastian, who struggles to understand that his brother is truly gone,” the GoFundMe page said. “We dread the upcoming holiday season without our little boy. We are lost.”