Star athlete eats Thanksgiving cake; hours later he’s lifeless in his dad’s arms

Oakley loved tennis, football, soccer and was also a marathon runner despite suffering asthma and nut allergies. His family described him as a “brave and strong warrior” in battling these diseases.

On November 24 Oakley decided to enjoy a piece of the pound cake which had been left out on the kitchen table where they were staying in Maine. His mom Merrill Debbs said Oakley always had to check labels before he ate anything and didn’t see any signs of nuts.

“He thought it was just a piece of cake,” said his father, Robert Debbs. “But when he ate it, he come over and said it might have contained nuts.” After his mother tried some, she agreed it had a nut flavor, which was later determined to be walnut.

“Merrill did what we usually do, she gave him Benadryl [pills],” said Robert. “And he came back and said he felt fine.” At that point, his only symptom was a single hive on his lip.

But, shortly after Oakley complained of pains in his chest, then he started vomiting. His parents called 911 but when the ambulance arrived, 10 minutes later, he was blue. Oakley’s airwaves had closed and his heart had stopped beating.

I am writing on behalf of Robert J. Debbs Merrill Debbs and Oakley’s twin sister, Olivia. It is with a heavy heart I…

Posted by Tyler Debbs Squire on Saturday, November 26, 2016

The family then had to come to terms with such a tragic loss and understand why Oakley couldn’t be saved.

“I don’t think my beautiful, amazing, talented, adorable son should have passed away,” said Merrill.

The family started the Red Sneaker Foundation which educates people on recognizing the signs of anaphylaxis, the acute multiorgan life-threatening reaction to allergens.

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