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EpiPen law may save kids with allergies

When Tiffany Glass Ferreira’s son Charlie was 3, she offered him a treat that nearly killed him.

“I gave him cashews. He took one bite and started to have a severe reaction, where he was crying, grabbing his tongue – his face started to swell,” Ferreira said. “He looked like a Klingon, like a science-fiction character.”

Charlie, now 5, ultimately recovered. To save other children from potentially fatal reactions to food allergies, Virginia last week adopted a law requiring schools to carry epinephrine auto-injectors, such as EpiPens. These devices deliver a single dose of epinephrine, or adrenaline, into the thigh of someone suffering a life-threatening allergic reaction.

After talking with other mothers in support groups, Ferreira, who supports the EpiPen legislation, said she realized she can’t stop Charlie from having another reaction, but she can be prepared for it.

“I said, ‘How can I prevent this from happening again?’ Another mom said to me, ‘You can’t. It’s going to happen again. You can’t think if they have a reaction. You have to think when,’ ” Ferreira said.

The “when” factor is exactly what Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, had in mind when he introduced Senate Bill 656. SB 656 will require schools to carry epinephrine auto-injectors in case a child has a severe allergic reaction.

“The EpiPen bill does two things. For those jurisdictions that already had … the EpiPens in the schools, it allows them to have enough flexibility to continue handling the EpiPen issue the way they’ve been handling it,” McEachin said. “For everybody else, it writes a protocol as to the need to have the EpiPen in the school, who can administer it and who can write prescriptions for it, because at the end of the day, it’s a medicine and it has to be prescribed.”

The bill also requires school nurses and other employees to be trained before injecting students with EpiPens. During its regular session, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed SB 656 and an identical House bill, HB 1107, sponsored by Delegate Thomas “Tag” Greason, R-Lansdowne.

Gov. Bob McDonnell recommended that the legislation be amended to make it clear that school boards must implement the EpiPen law by the start of the 2012-13 school year. On Wednesday, the House and Senate unanimously approved McDonnell’s recommendations. The governor plans to sign the law this Thursday.

John Rokenbrod, a spokesman for the Amelia County public school system west of Richmond, said current laws require students to bring their own medications, such as EpiPens, to school.

“In the past, you had to have specific permission for that student. You had to have a prescription and permission to administer the medication,” Rokenbrod said.

The new legislation is intended to ensure that children without an EpiPen are not out of luck when they have an allergic reaction. Also, school officials will be trained to recognize signs of a severe reaction and to administer epinephrine.

McEachin’s bill was introduced shortly after 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson, a first-grader at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield County, died in January from an allergic reaction to peanuts. Ammaria’s death prompted groups such as the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network in Fairfax to call for laws allowing schools to stock EpiPens for use in emergencies.

“Absolutely, this one was inspired by the death of that little girl,” McEachin said.

McEachin said he hopes the law will help avoid tragedies like Ammaria’s death. “Maybe some little girl or some little boy won’t die from an allergy when that’s absolutely preventable,” McEachin said.


Community

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

Equestrian clinic planned July 7-8 in Henrico

Henrico equestrians interested in deepening the bond between themselves and their horses have the opportunity to attend a two day clinic, held at Steppin’ High Stables on July 7-8 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, “Become Partners with your Horse,” will be taught by multiple world champion equestrienne Terry Preiser and will focus on how riders and horses can work together to achieve more. > Read more.

Henrico school bus driver honored

The Henrico-based Hephaestus Society recently awarded its first annual community heroes award (the Hephaestus Award) to Hicham Elgharouch (pictured, center) for what it termed his "selfless acts of caring" in his duties as a Henrico County Public Schools bus driver. Henrico County Director of Pupil Transportation Josh Davis, joined Hephaestus Society President Travis Gardner, in presenting the award and an accompanying $1,500 check to Elgharouch last month.

Elgharouch was selected for his clear and demonstrated patience and for his infectious positive attitude, according to the society. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


Don’t party too hard on the Fourth because a whole weekend of fun events await! Enjoy a classy date night without the kids at James River Cellars Winery’s second annual Smoke and Vine Festival. Another date night option is at the Richmond Funny Bone, where comedian April Macie will perform all weekend. The kids have their own options this weekend as well. Choose from storytime at Tuckahoe and Twin Hickory libraries or family-oriented karaoke at Aunt Sarah’s Pancake House – I hear they have hits from Disney’s “Frozen.” For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend has something for everyone in your family – whether it’s improv comedy with ComedySportz or West End Comedy, or an inspirational concert from the Ezibu Muntu African Dance Company! Families will also enjoy music, games and crafts at Hidden Creek Park or reading to a therapy dog at Glen Allen Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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Build a toothbrush robot to race or make spatter art at 2 p.m. at Gayton Library, 10600 Gayton Rd. For ages 10-18. Registration is required. For details, call 290-9600 or… Full text

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