School nurse accused of not giving EpiPen to student right away

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (WLS) -- A school nurse at an Arlington Heights high school is accused of not taking proper, immediate action when a student suffered an allergic reaction after eating peanuts.

Lia Sommer, 15, a freshman at John Hershey High School in the northwest suburb was delayed from using her EpiPen and now she is at the forefront of an effort to increase awareness about peanut allergies.

"I took a bite of sandwich and I could feel my throat closing up a little bit," Sommer recalled about an incident that happened a few weeks ago. She had eaten a sandwich, which had peanuts in it, despite not being labeled as such.

Sommer felt the symptoms right away and went to the school nurse.

"She recommended that I take some Benadryl and wait to see and I told her that I've had these symptoms before so I needed to take my EpiPen immediately," Sommer said.

Sommer has had a peanut allergy her whole life and has only needed her EpiPen three times, which gives an emergency dose of epinephrine to stop the allergic reaction.

One EpiPen was provided to the school nurse, along with an allergy action plan.

"Her allergist wrote in his hand 'Give EpiPen first,'" said Sommer's mother, Lonnie Joy Sommer.

Eventually, Sommer administered her own EpiPen and the school called 911, sending her to the hospital in an ambulance unaccompanied by a school official.

Lonnie Joy Sommer said she's glad her daughter is better and has no plans to take legal action.

However, she said there needs to be a better district policy in place to handle medical emergencies.

The mom brought up the matter to the school board last week, reading a letter that detailed the incident.

"I want this to be a safe place for them," Lonnie Joy Sommer said.

In a statement, the school district sincerely apologized to the Sommer family for its mistakes in the matter and will pay for her medical expenses.

Jennifer Delgado, a spokeswoman for Township High School District 214, said "The Food and Nutrition Services Department substituted peanuts for pine nuts in the pesto sauce and did not inform our students and staff of that change, which is inconsistent with district protocols. The student presented mild symptoms of a potential allergic reaction. The nurse contacted the parent and an EpiPen was administered. The school nurse acted professionally and, consistent with district protocols called 911, which happens whenever an EpiPen is administered. We apologize to the family and are working to improve our protocols regarding allergies and food in the Food and Nutrition Services Department."
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