WEST LONDON, ENGLAND — A 13-year-old schoolboy who was severely allergic to all dairy products died after his classmate tossed a piece of cheese down his shirt.
Karanbir Cheema suffered anaphylactic shock in June of last year, and another 13-year-old was taken into custody for suspicion of attempted murder.
A September 20 inquest, The Telegraph reported, has now detailed how the events leading up to Cheema’s death unfolded at William Perkin Church of England High School in Greenford, West London.
Paramedic Kierin Oppatt told St. Pancras Coroners’ Court that an operator for 999 (equivalent to 911 in the United States) relayed to him that Cheema was having “just an allergic reaction.”
Oppatt got to the school seven minutes after the call for help went out and realized the situation was much more serious than the operator had conveyed. “On arrival at the scene I immediately knew it was life threatening, and that the patient had a high risk of going into cardiac and respiratory arrest,” said Oppatt.
Cheema, who was lying on the floor surrounded by teachers, was covered in hives, unconscious, and “gasping for air.” Staff had already tried using an antihistamine syrup, inhaler, and EpiPen on Cheema, but none had stopped him from struggling.
Realizing the severity of the situation, Oppatt was forced to leave the boy to run outside and call for backup because his radio didn’t get reception inside the school. Tragically, the boy had stopped breathing by the time he returned.
While waiting for more help, Oppatt and his colleague did everything they could to save Cheema’s life, including trying a defibrillator, CPR, and adrenaline shots.
Cheema died on July 9 at Great Ormond Street Hospital, 10 days after the incident.
“We were told by school staff that perhaps someone had chased the patient with cheese and had proceeded to throw it down his T-shirt,” Oppatt recalled in court.
Cheema’s food allergies, which also included eggs, gluten, wheat, and all nuts, were reportedly so severe he had to have his own microwave and refrigerator at home.
“We want answers,” the teen’s mom, Rina Cheema, told the court at Wednesday’s inquest while her surviving two sons and daughter looked on. “I am devastated as a mother after losing my son, and my family have lost their brother,” continued the 52-year-old accountant.
“He was a very, very bright young boy. He was so bright he could have been anything he wanted. I brought him up by myself. I trained him to read all about his condition,” she added.
Detective Sergeant Christian Rodgers noted the student who threw the cheese at Cheema “is no longer at the school.” The alleged perpetrator has not been charged in the ongoing investigation.