A B.C. father is warning parents to remind children about what’s safe to eat after his school-aged son was hospitalized earlier this week.
Jeremy Mills of Kelowna says his son ingested an unknown substance while at school and wound up with drug-like symptoms, requiring a trip to the hospital.
Mills doesn’t know what the substance was — noting it could have been drugs, medicine or cleaning supplies — but the incident is something he never wants to see or hear happening to another family.
“My son went to school, just like any other normal day,” Mills said of the Wednesday episode.
“There were friends of his that were in line, kind of chatting him up. And between him going to class in the morning at about 9 a.m., or 9:10 or so, he found some substance in his classroom.”
According to Mills, his son thought to himself: “half of me thought I should eat it, half of me thought I shouldn’t eat it.”
“Well, because he’s an eight-year-old boy,” said Mills, “in it goes.”
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Mills said the teacher then gave the class an assignment, asking to recreate a picture on the chalkboard. Mills said his son’s work “was gibberish, basically.”
The teacher, said Mills, knew the boy wasn’t all right and called for the school nurse, by which point the boy “was unable to move or really speak.”
Mills said the school notified him immediately and that he was at school within five minutes, before paramedics arrived.
“I took one look at him, and I have a little bit of a medical background, and I knew that there was something seriously wrong with my boy,” said Mills.
“I immediately started doing ABCs… did he fall off the roof? Was there trauma? I ripped off his socks and shoes, thinking he maybe stepped on a needle because he was showing signs of some impairment.”
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At the hospital, Mills said all tests done on his son came back negative for known street drugs.
“So they thought maybe it was a seizure, so they performed an EEG (electroencephalogram),” said Mills. “And all this was happening so fast, it was amazing to see it all. But every test came back negative.”
Mills said other tests were performed, with results still coming, but that his son wasn’t able to verbalize until 9 or 10 p.m. — which is when he told his dad what had transpired.
Mills said his son told him he ingested some pink powder that he found in the classroom.
“I went to the school Thursday morning, talked to the principal and vice-principal, saying apparently my son found something, he ingested something he found inside the classroom,” said Mills.
“So they went there and, lo and behold, it was still sitting where he described it.”
On Saturday, Mills said the substance was unknown, though it had been picked up by police.
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Asked if it was drugs, medicine or cleaning supplies, Mills said he didn’t know.
“At this point,” said Mills, “we’re just trying to understand, what did he consume?”
Shortly after the incident, the school issued an email to parents regarding the incident.
The email said “as you may be aware, through social or news media, recently, while at our school, one of our students had what our medical professionals are indicating is a serious medical situation by ingesting an unknown substance. Please understand that we are working closely with our district office, the medical professionals and the RCMP to investigate this serious concern.”
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The email added that parents should discuss foreign substances with their children, stating:
“Medications, drugs and toxic substances can present in a variety of forms. Needles and drug paraphernalia are often easy for students to identify as dangerous, but toxic substances can also look like vitamins, candy or even gummy bears. Students should never eat anything that they find on the floor or anything that has not been provided in their lunch and snack by a parent or specifically by the school.”
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Mills said his children know about the dangers of drugs, but “we’ve also taught our kids that we want them to feel safe at school.”
He said they shouldn’t expect “to find a pink, candy-looking powder, and then he consumes it and goes down so hard.”
Mills continued, saying “our drug landscape has changed. With gummy bears and edibles and oils, there’s liquids, there’s tattoos, there’s different forms that the drugs take now.”
“And I don’t think the parents are sometimes aware. I feel that I failed my son (by not showing) him that exact picture of a crushed pink pill. I didn’t think that would be something that we’d have to worry about in our classrooms.”
Mills credits the principal for doing daily, diligent drug sweeps along school grounds “just to ensure that we are in a safe environment.”
“And so here we are. We do the screens, we have the education, our school staff know what to look for. But maybe they don’t know this,” he said.
“And so what I’m telling all parents, teachers, staff, anybody that’s going to listen, is that we need to re-educate our children what drugs are, and the different forms that they can take.”