A coroner has stressed the importance of people with food allergies always carrying an EpiPen after a young foreign tourist to Ireland suffered a fatal anaphylactic shock after forgetting to bring one with her when visiting a friend’s house for dinner.
Giulia De Simone (21), a student from London, died as a result of an extreme allergic reaction to a piece of meat with sauce containing peanuts in Dublin two years ago, an inquest has heard.
Ms De Simone was pronounced dead at the Mater Hospital in Dublin on March 27th 2021 just hours after inadvertently consuming a small portion of food containing peanuts.
A sitting of Dublin District Coroner’s Court on Friday heard Ms De Simone had a known allergy to peanuts from early childhood as well as being asthmatic and coeliac.
Ms De Simone’s boyfriend, Jackson Bannon, told the inquest that he and his girlfriend had been staying at the Zanzibar Locke Hotel on Ormond Quay in Dublin for a few days before they went to visit a friend in Mayor Square in the docklands area for dinner on the evening of March 26th 2021.
Mr Bannon said their friend gave them food that his mother had made which he believed was a Nigerian dish which was “steak marinated in a sauce.”
He said Ms De Simone only asked what the food was after she had already taken a bite and was informed it contained peanuts.Mr Bannon said he “freaked out” at hearing this as he was aware of his girlfriend’s allergy.
Although they had only been in a relationship for a month, Mr Bannon said she had often spoken about how serious her allergy was and that she carried an EpiPen at all times.
However, the inquest heard that Ms De Simone had left her EpiPen at the bottom of her suitcase which was in their hotel room.
Mr Bannon said Ms De Simone rushed back to the hotel on a rental bike, while he and their friend took a Luas back there.
He told the coroner, Clare Keane, that his girlfriend was struggling to breathe by the time she managed to administer the EpiPen.
Fighting back tears, Mr Bannon recalled how Ms De Simone fell out of a lift and collapsed before an ambulance arrived at the hotel, while he tried to administer CPR.
In reply to questions from Dr Keane, Mr Bannon said his girlfriend had been in “perfect” form before the incident.
He said Ms De Simone had not made any comment at any time while they were out about not having her EpiPen.
Mr Bannon said she had just tasted the piece of meat which was “like a piece of beef” and had “taken a small bite off a spoon.”
“You wouldn’t think there was anything in it,” he remarked. Mr Bannon said nobody had thought about calling an ambulance at that stage as Ms De Simone had shown no signs of any allergic reaction.
However, he said his girlfriend was “not doing well” by the time she got to administer her EpiPen in her thigh back at the hotel.
Mr Bannon said she was finding it difficult to speak, while her face had started to swell. He said the dosage from the EpiPin only seemed to make her condition worse.
The inquest heard paramedics had given Ms De Simone six more doses of adrenaline before she had arrived at the Mater as she was in cardiac arrest when they arrived at the hotel.
The coroner was also informed that no heartbeat could be detected from the deceased on admission at the hospital.
Garda Christopher Galvin gave evidence of being alerted to the sudden death of a young female who was brought to the Mater.
Garda Galvin said Ms De Simone had arrived at the hospital at 12.59am and was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.
The student’s father, Mark De Simone, told the inquest that his daughter was very diligent about keeping all the medical devices and medication she needed to treat her various conditions.
“She was very compliant with whatever she had to take,” he recalled.
Mr De Simone said his daughter had suffered several allergic reactions to peanuts before including once in Israel when they were “only in the air.”
Her mother, Elena De Simone, said her daughter had to be hospitalised on a number of occasions with the previous serious allergic reaction occurring in May 2019.
She told the inquest that Giulia would even suffer a reaction if her skin was touched with a peanut.
Ms De Simone said her daughter had always carried her EpiPen with her but unfortunately “when she needed it most, she didn’t have it.”
Dr Keane said post-mortem results confirmed that the cause of death was an anaphylactic shock from a peanut allergy.
Offering her condolences to Ms De Simone’s parents who attended the inquest by video link, the coroner said it was possible that their daughter’s decision to take a taste of the food off the spoon was impulsive given how careful she usually was about her allergy.
Dr Keane recorded a verdict of death by misadventure to reflect the fact that she had died as a result of an unintended outcome of taking a small bite of food.
The coroner said it could not be emphasised enough how important it was for people who suffer from allergies to always carry an EpiPen with them.
“The early administration of an EpiPen matters and it is vital it is done in the first few minutes,” said Dr Keane.