Parents pay tribute to ‘wonderful’ teen who died after allergic reaction to nuts
The devastated parents of a teenager who died from a severe allergic reaction to nuts have paid tribute to their “wonderful” daughter
Ellen Raffell, 16, was at home with her family in Blyth, Northumberland, when she went into cardiac arrest in October, 2019.
While waiting for paramedics to arrive, her parents desperately began administering CPR before she was later transported to Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary ICU.
Despite sustained efforts from staff, Ellen’s brain was not getting enough oxygen and she passed away four days later on October 31.
But her brain was not getting enough oxygen and, despite the sustained efforts of hospital staff, she passed away peacefully four days later.
Ellen’s devastated family spoke of their pride for their “kind and compassionate” daughter who was a “ray of sunshine”.
They have set up the charity Ellen’s Gift of Hope to continue her legacy by supporting disadvantaged children living in Northumberland, Newcastle and North Tyneside.
Her parents Delyth and Graham said: “It’s difficult to put into words. It’s like part of you is missing.
“Part of your heart is gone and will never come back.
“You can’t fix it. There is nothing you can do to bring her back. That is why the charity is vital to keep her name alive and let people remember her.
“Ellen was the kindest, most compassionate girl. She always wanted to help others.
“She was such a wonderful girl and a ray of sunshine.”
The intelligent Bede Academy pupil had been excited to start a space engineering course at Loughborough National Space Academy in September 2020.
An inquest into Ellen’s death was told how medics initially believed she had an asthma attack due to her being in and out of hospital for many years with exacerbations.
But they later discovered the teenager had a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis as a result of food she had eaten prior to her death.
Anaphylaxis is the result of the immune system, the body’s natural defence system, overreacting to a trigger such as venom, food, or medication. It usually develops suddenly and gets worse very quickly.
Newcastle Coroner’s Court heard how before Ellen went into cardiac arrest she had eaten pomegranate seeds, a cheese sandwich and a number of snacks from an oriental supermarket.
Dr Rachel Agbeko, paedeatric intensive care consultant at the RVI, said some of Ellen’s medical history revealed she previously had a reaction to nuts and tests revealed positive signs for nuts, fish and shellfish in her system.
Newcastle Senior Coroner Karen Dilks said Ellen had an “anaphylactic reaction to food she had eaten” and concluded she died of natural causes.
Ellen, who had a twin sister called Abbey, chose to donate her organs which her family say have gone on to help save and improve the lives of two young girls and two adults.
Ellen’s Gift of Hope will support children in the North East who face challenges in life due health issues, special needs and disabilities.
A total of £12,000 was raised last year through a number of events with an ambitious target of making £25,000 in 2021.
Her parents added: “We know Ellen will be looking down on us and we just want to make her proud.
“She always wanted to be a scientist. She didn’t make it to do her course but she was so excited to go. We were really proud of her.
“There were only around 13 people on the course and she was the only girl.
“We have struggled to come to terms with her death.
“The only thing we can take from it was that it happened at home and we were all there.
“Her twin sister Abbey says she sees her in her dreams every night so it’s like she visits her.
“She always wanted to help others and she has been able to by donating parts of her eyes to two young girls and two young men with her kidneys.”
Dr Agbeko said the NHS was learning from Ellen’s death with plans to introduce a nationwide educational programme about allergies and anaphylaxis among staff and the public to prevent other “tragic incidents” occurring.
MS Dilks said: “I’m pleased to hear the practice has been proactive as education is so important. What happened here was such an horrific event with an absolutely tragic outcome.
“People going to the their GP may want to ask questions so that it can be included in their care plans.”