Andrea Mariano was remembered as “wonderful,” “a precious one,” and “ a friend to all.”
“She was full of spirit and promise,” Gary Thompson, a family representative, told Global News.
This weekend, Andrea’s family laid her to rest after a funeral service that was attended by hundreds of mourners. Some who came to pay their respects had never met Andrea, but they were moved by her story and tragic death.
As Global News reported last week, Andrea was in her first-year at Queen’s University. It was only her second day of classes, when she purchased a smoothie on campus, according to her family. After taking a sip, she immediately went into anaphylactic shock. She was rushed to Kingston General Hospital where she died a few days later. Her family said Andrea’s severe allergic reaction was caused by a peanut allergy. She was 18.
“The family has lost a precious one, a community has lost a precious one,” said Thompson.
Those who knew her are remembering Andrea’s kindness, love of animals and musical abilities. They hope her death will raise awareness about severe food allergies, safe food handling and cross-contamination. Her family said she had lived for years with her allergy to milk and severe allergy to peanuts, and she was diligent about informing others.
“She had ordered a smoothie. All her life she has been very particular about letting whoever it is that is preparing her food know,” Andrea’s cousin Hedellaine Valentin told Global News last week. “To say, ‘I have an allergy to peanuts, I am deathly allergic to peanuts and I have an allergy to dairy products.’ She knows that. She tells them.”
Uncharacteristically, on that day, Andrea did something she never did: she was not carrying one of her two auto-injectors with her, according to her cousin Valentin. The injectors carry the drug epinephrine.
“The doctors have said, even if she had both EpiPens with her, it was that severe, whatever it was that she had ingested… this was inevitable,” said Valentin.
Andrea’s high school friend, Teresa Tucci, remembered Andrea as a supportive and dedicated friend with a wonderful laugh.
“My best friend Andrea Mariano was a beautiful, intelligent, and diligent 18 year old who embraced life and spread joy to others her whole life,” Tucci said in a statement to Global News.
“She had a severe peanut allergy and as a result, was always cautious about the food she ate and always asked if it contained peanuts. She died from a very severe anaphylactic reaction caused by cross contamination with the smoothie that she had ordered on campus. I do not know any specific details about the exact place on campus as of yet. The doctors at the Kingston General Hospital told the family that even two doses of the epi-pen would not have helped Andrea’s situation because of how very severe it was,” Tucci’s statement said.
In light of Andrea’s death, Queen’s told Global News it was reviewing its food services, and “the health and well-being of our students is of the utmost concern to us and we will review the many services we have in place to ensure they are consistent with best practices.” Other Canadian institutions also held meetings last week to reiterate and review food service guidelines, food allergies and policies.
Although the number of cases of anaphylaxis is on the rise in Canada, deaths are rare. The people most at risk are youth.
“When you look at the fatalities, many of the people who have died have often been young people, teenagers and young adults,” said Laurie Harada, executive director of Food Allergy Canada.
She adds it is more complicated when young people leave home for the first time and are adjusting to life in a new environment, communicating with food services staff and learning how to pick safely in a dining hall and fast food setting. If someone suffers an anaphylactic reaction — or thinks they are — Food Allergy Canada recommends they use epinephrine and call 911.
“Sometimes these things happen very innocently,” said Harada. “It is increasingly important for food service to have their staff trained in how you manage allergens in your environment.”
Allergy Canada says approximately 2.5 million Canadians have at least one food allergy, and 300,000 Canadian children under the age of 18 have food allergies.
For Tucci and Andrea’s family, they hope their pain will lead to change. “We should all be more sensitive to these individuals’ needs. Each one of us has a responsibility. We should all learn how to administer an EpiPen and we should all increase our awareness about allergies. The government has a part to play as do each of us. This time it was my dear friend Andrea, next time it could be your loved one. It is time to better action to avoid further deaths,” Tucci said.