One Taste of Peanuts Takes Spunky Boy's Life
Jan. 15, 1987
CALISTOGA, Calif. (AP) _ Bryan Dias played soccer and Little League baseball and tooted the clarinet in his elementary school band in this wine country community known for its healthy water and clean living.
But the one thing the spunky 11-year-old couldn't do was eat peanuts, which would aggravate his asthma and make him wheeze.
Last week, he bit into what he thought was a piece of chocolate cake. He spit it out when he tasted the forbidden peanuts, but apparently swallowed a few crumbs. He had the first severe asthma attack of his young life, slipped into a coma and died last Friday.
On Tuesday night, about 300 of Bryan's friends and their parents gathered at a memorial service. They tried to make it as upbeat as possible. One girl told the crowd at the funeral home that Bryan would be the first one to say ''Hello'' if a new kid joined their class.
Bryan's music teacher and Little League coach, Dick Schuster, played ''Yellow Submarine'' on the clarinet, a tune Bryan had wanted to learn.
''I think one of the teachers probably described him best,'' said school secretary Shari Hanson. ''She said he had a lot of pluck.''
Folks have been bringing hot meals to the family's home for days now. ''That's something you get from a small town,'' said Bryan's father, Larry Dias, a technician for Pacific Gas & Electric. The outpouring of emotion has really helped ease the pain, he said.
Larry and Karen Dias realized their son suffered from asthma when he was 1 year old. At age 3, Bryan developed a rash after eating something made with peanuts, so they were eliminated from his diet.
''Through all his life, we were real aware of what he ate,'' said Dias. Bryan still had asthma, but the medication he took let him lead a fairly normal life. Dias recalled how his son played ball, rode a dirt bike and played soccer, although sometimes he'd need a rest.
''He would go out and come back in when he felt a little better,'' said the father.
Ms. Hanson, who knew Bryan since his kindergarten days, said he would sometimes come streaking into the school office for his medicine.
''Many times, he came into the office wheezing and you wouldn't be sure he would make it to his inhaler,'' she said. ''He'd use it and away he'd go. He'd say, 'I'm fine.'''
On Jan. 5, the first day back in school after the holiday, Bryan bought a piece of cake to eat with his lunch. Though he spit it out when he tasted the peanuts, ''apparently some of it went down,'' Dias said.
Bryan was taken to his doctor, who admitted him to a hospital. ''He was in a coma the whole time and he got into a deeper coma toward the end of the week,'' said Dias.
After Bryan died Friday evening, his parents gave permission for doctors to remove his organs for transplant to five recipients throughout California.
Dr. Allan Giannini, an assistant clinical professor at the University of California at San Francisco, said Bryan's extreme reaction to peanuts was rare, but the allergy itself is not.
''Peanut allergy is one of the really strong food allergies that causes not only hives ... but can cause swelling of the larynx, in which case the airways are closed off,'' he said Thursday. ''... It's something that has to be very carefully treated.''
Giannini said the allergy is a real menace because peanuts can show up in all types of food. Some patients even react to the smell of peanuts, he said.
Last February, Katherine Brodsky, an 18-year-old college athlete from Brooklyn, N.Y., died after eating chili at a Providence, R.I., restaurant. Miss Brodsky, also strongly allergic to nuts, was unaware that the restaurant used peanut butter in its chili recipe.