City agencies direct preschools to call 911 for children in distress after allergy death

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- It would seem obvious, call 911 if a child is in distress, but now a new city rule makes it mandatory for all pre-k providers.

It comes after the death of a toddler given a grilled cheese sandwich at his pre-school even though he was highly allergic to dairy.

The directive was issued to every pre-K program across the city. It contains protocols for managing children with allergies and guidelines for responding to medical emergencies.

"The city is issuing a new requirement to all early learn and pre-K providers that they must call 911 when a child has a medical emergency," said Commissioner David Hansell, Administration for Children's Services.

Eyewitness News first reported last week that there was no 911 call after Elijah Silvera suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction.

His pre-K staff at The Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services called Elijah's mother instead, who rushed the child to Harlem Hospital where he later died.

His family says the staff was warned that Elijah had a severe allergy to dairy products, but he was served a grilled cheese sandwich.

Authorities said Monday that the center's response was unacceptable and that the pre-K will be closed indefinitely.

"When our team was dispatched and went to investigate following the report of the tragic death of Elijah, they found that the individual safety plan that this site had on site was not being followed," said Commissioner Mary Bassett, NYC Health Department.

Nydia Avila has a 4-year-old daughter with a food allergy in a different program. She says what happened to Elijah was a wakeup call.

"When I first heard it in the news I was really in shock because my daughter has allergies," Avila said. "I said, 'Oh my gosh, that could be my daughter.'"

Elijah's parents released a statement on Monday saying,

"My wife Dina and I spend hours reading your messages. They are a lifeline during this horrible time period. We are moved to tears to know that we are not alone, both in our heartbreak and in our concern for safety around allergies in schools.

We also want to say that while we remain absolutely devastated over the loss of our sweet son Elijah, the outpouring of love from across the country has inspired us to ensure that his death did not happen in vain. As Elijah's parents, we will use our voices to draw attention to *completely preventable* life-threatening allergic reactions in U.S. daycares and schools. These preventable tragedies must come to an end.

Every day since Elijah left us has been so painful. We come home to an apartment that has an eerie kind of emptiness. It is filled with his toys, his pictures on our walls, and the sounds of one child, the other missing.

Elijah's brother Sebastian asked us how we could go see his baby brother in Heaven, "Can we ride a rocket ship to reach to him?" he asked, and our hearts broke all over again. The reality hits us, subsides, and then hits us again, and our hearts break each time. Your messages of love, support, and shared experiences are holding us up. We may be too overwhelmed to respond to everyone, but we want to thank you.

Focusing on advocacy for other children like Elijah gives us hope. You give us hope.

While we can no longer protect Elijah, hold him in our arms, or kiss his sweet little face, we can still fight for kids like him. And that's exactly what we intend to do.

With Gratitude and Determination,
Elijah's Parents, Dina & Thomas"
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