19-year-old dies after having severe allergic reaction during anniversary dinner date with boyfriend
19-year-old Alice Brooks suffered an anaphylactic shock after eating ginger chicken and tofu at a popular restaurant in west London
19-year-old Alice Brooks died after suffering a severe allergic reaction during a 10-month anniversary meal with boyfriend Michael Jeffries at a popular restaurant in Uxbridge, west London. Now, an inquest into her 2014 death has heard the harrowing details of how teen went into anaphylactic shock and collapsed after the meal, and how, despite the medical professionals' best efforts, she could not be saved.
According to the Daily Mail, Brooks was taken off life support four days after collapsing from having consumed ginger chicken and tofu at Wagamama. The 19-year-old reportedly suffered from several allergies, including those to nuts, fish, and latex.
Her mother, Suzanne Wilby, described to the inquest the extent of the reactions her daughter would suffer when in the proximity of some of these items. She said that Brooks had once suffered a reaction after sipping a bottle of coca-cola belonging to someone who had eaten a snickers bar several hours earlier.
She also recalled other such incidents, including when her daughter suffered bouts of heavy breathing after sitting next to someone who ate a bag of nuts. At another time, she was sent home from working in a bakery when she had a reaction to a colleague baking a walnut cake.
While she would survive those past incidents, the meal at Wagamama would prove fatal. Jeffries described the day to West London Coroners Court, explaining how his girlfriend had asked about nuts in the dishes at the restaurant and looked at the allergy charts to be safe.
"The waitress came over and asked what we wanted and Alice asked if there were nuts in the dish she wanted," he said. "The manager then came over with the allergy chart and confirmed nothing on it was in the food. Alice made sure it didn't contain nuts but she asked to double check."
After finishing their food, Jeffries said the pair were walking when Brooks began feeling unwell. They immediately decided to walk back to the car. While the 19-year-old used her inhaler for relief, it would prove ineffective and her condition started to get worse. "She said her throat was frozen up and her breathing was really bad at that point, her lips started turning blue and that was when she had an anaphylactic shock," he said.
He then called emergency services, who arrived at the scene within minutes. But there would be certain delays that may have proved costly. Medical technician Stephen Hale, who put Brooks on life support after she suffered a cardiac arrest, also testified at the inquest.
"I remember finding Alice lying between parked cars surrounded by inhalers, I can't remember how many but certainly more than one," he said. "Her boyfriend said he used an EpiPen and that she had a reaction after they ate at Wagamama. Within one minute of me arriving, she went into cardiac arrest and I gave basic life support with decompressions and mask and air."
Because of height restrictions at the car park where Brooks had collapsed, paramedics had to rush up the stairs with the required medical equipment. This also meant that there was a 10-minute delay in transporting Brooks to the ambulance and then to the hospital.
While there remains doubt on the exact medical state that resulted in the 19-year-old's collapse — it's unclear whether she suffered an asthma attack, anaphylaxis, or a bronchospasm — Dr. Sergei Vaganov of Hillingdon Hospital told the court he believed she suffered a bronchospasm.
That opinion was backed by Dr. Andrew Jones of St. Thomas Hospital, where she was later transferred to and spent her remaining days. In a written statement, Jones had also said that Brooks suffered "a catastrophic brain injury" and that she had a "complete absence of brain function."
In his testimony, Detective Sergeant John Hine called Wagamama's protocol for dealing with people with allergies "very competent." He had visited the restaurant to collect CCTV footage and question employees, and told the court, "I attended the restaurant. The purpose was to secure CCTV and speak to the waitress, manager, and chef."
"They confirmed that the couple came in and ordered, requesting no-nut dishes. They explained to me that Miss Brooks had mentioned the nut allergy and the order was supervised by the manager," she continued. "Wagamama has a protocol when serving people with allergies and they presented to me as very competent and they certainly considered people coming in with allergies."
Brooks was taken off life support by her family on November 29, 2014.