A 3-year-old boy with a dairy allergy tragically died earlier this month after his New York City preschool fed him a grilled cheese sandwich. Now, the boy’s father is taking a stand for stricter school policies to ensure children with severe food allergies are safely cared for.
Elijah Silvera tragically died on November 3, after a caretaker at the Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services in Harlem gave him a grilled cheese sandwich, “despite them knowing and having documented that he has a severe allergy to dairy,” according to a GoFundMe page organized for the Silvera family.
Elijah’s father, Thomas Silvera, says his son’s death was completely preventable. The family is now on a mission to ensure no other parent has to lose their child to something “so simple.”
According to Thomas, the preschool did not follow the proper protocol in regards to Elijah’s food allergy or his severe allergic reaction. After feeding him the grilled cheese sandwich without first consulting Elijah’s charts, the school did not call 911 during the little boy’s emergency. Instead, they called his mother who took him to the hospital.
At the hospital, Elijah went into anaphylactic shock and later died while being treated at the pediatric emergency room at Harlem Hospital Center.
Despite his wife doing everything she possibly could to make the school aware of the severity of Elijah’s condition, Thomas believes his son’s allergies were “pushed to the side.” His hope is that by sharing Elijah’s story, educational facilities will take the necessary “steps and measures” to ensure every child is safe in their care—particularly those with severe allergies. Taking that extra minute to consult paperwork and medications could literally mean the difference between life and death for another child like Elijah.
Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services in Harlem has been shut down while the city continues to investigate Elijah’s death.
For now, the Silvera family and their community are mourning the loss of an energetic little boy who loved to build towers with blocks and play with his “best friend” and older brother, 5-year-old Sebastian.
Sebastian recently asked his parents if they could take a rocket ship ride to visit his baby brother in Heaven, a statement they say broke their hearts all over again.
“He was strong. He was a fighter,” Thomas said. “I’m gonna keep fighting for that boy.”
According to foodallergy.org, 5.9 million children under the age of 18 suffer from food allergies in the United States. That’s 1 in 13 children, which works out to roughly two children with allergies inside of every U.S. classroom. With food allergies on the rise, now more than ever, it’s important for schools and parents to work together to ensure every child is safe around the food in their environment.
Join us in continued prayers for the Silvera family as they seek answers and come to terms with this unimaginable loss.