New epinephrine law could save a child's life at school

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- A new Arizona law could save a child's life at school.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill Tuesday allowing school nurses to administer epinephrine to students having a severe allergic reaction.

“The highest goal we could have is to save a life and life is more important than whether or not a person enjoys a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on our campus,” said Raquel Scharf-Anderson, principal at Pardes Jewish Day School, a nut-free zone.

Still, last year a student had an anaphylactic reaction to something in his lunch.

“They started to feel a funniness in their throat,” Scharf-Anderson said.

But all the school could do was call 911 and wait.

Of course, all of that changes with the governor signing Senate Bill 1421 into law, equipping schools with epinephrine pens and training staff to administer the medication if they suspect someone on campus is experiencing an allergic reaction.

"With the new epinephrine law, it enables us to have epinephrine on campus ready to go for a student, a parent, an adult who works on campus who maybe gets a bee sting and doesn’t know they are anaphylactic,” Scharf-Anderson said.

It's an issue very close to this educator's heart. After all, her daughter also suffers from food allergies and found out the hard way.

“When I was 18 months old I was eating a nut cookie and my lips swelled up,” Tzipporah Anderson said.

It turns out one in 13 kids has a food allergy and 25 percent have their first reaction at school.

Brewer signed the legislation while surrounded by allergy sufferers like Adrianna Aguirre, who had a life-altering reaction when she was just 14 years old.

“She had eaten some cereal at her best friend’s house, it had peanuts,” said Adrianna’s mom, Karen Brown. “She was obviously unaware and was without air five to 10 minutes. When the first responders got there they shot her full of epinephrine, but it was too late.”

Adrianna was in a coma for more than a month.

“She has overall body seizures, she doesn’t move, she doesn't talk,” Brown said. “But the Lord saved her.”

Brown understands better than anyone how every second makes a difference when a person suffers from anaphylaxis.  

Arizona now joins 9 other states enacting this epinephrine law aimed at saving time and thus saving lives. Doctors say if a person is in respiratory distress and it’s not clear if it is or it isn’t an allergic reaction, it is far better to administer a shot of epinephrine than it is to do nothing.

“I am so excited that we are going to be able to provide those epi-pens in schools,” Brown said. “I am certain that we will save lives.”