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Saturday 18 August 2018

Devastated mum tells of son's fatal reaction to a 'treat' from McDonald's

Maleek Lawal went into anaphylactic shock after eating a chicken wrap bought by his mother
Maleek Lawal went into anaphylactic shock after eating a chicken wrap bought by his mother

The mother of a young boy who died from an allergic reaction to a McDonald's chicken wrap has spoken of her heartbreak and the terrifying moment her son took ill.

Dublin Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane warned parents of children with food allergies to check ingredients at the inquest into the death of Maleek Lawal (10), a student at St Audeon's National School in Dublin.

The child suffered a severe allergic reaction and died after eating a takeaway meal from McDonald's. The boy's mother told Dublin Coroner's Court that he loved McDonald's food and always asked for it as a treat.

He ate a peri-peri chicken wrap from the fast-food restaurant's Ilac Centre outlet on October 7, 2016. Within 10 minutes he began to feel ill.

"He was a beautiful, playful boy. He loved to read. My heart is truly broken for him. I would not wish this pain of losing him on my worst enemy," his mother Rukawat Lawal said, speaking after the inquest.

She was pregnant with Maleek when she arrived in Ireland from Nigeria seeking asylum in 2006.

He was diagnosed with asthma and eczema as a young child and was advised to avoid milk, eggs, fish and nuts.

On the day he died, Ms Lawal had taken her three children to a barber shop after school for a haircut.

"We were homeless, with nobody helping us, we were on our own and I was looking for a way to get out of emergency accommodation. I was looking for a way to keep the children happy.

"Sometimes I felt so bad for him, so sad for him, that when he asked for something I had to give it to him," she said.

Ordered

The mother-of-three left her sons in the barber shop at the Ilac Centre in Dublin and went with her daughter to McDonald's where she ordered hamburgers, chicken nuggets and a peri-peri chicken wrap. Maleek had often eaten hamburgers and nuggets before but never the peri-peri wrap, the court heard.

Ms Lawal took the food back to the barber shop where the children ate it.

"He ate the whole wrap. Within 10 minutes he began to feel ill.

"He asked to go to the toilet. In the toilets he said 'Mam, I'm feeling weak, I can't walk'," Ms Lawal said.

His lips and face swelled up. His mother grabbed him and ran back into the barber shop screaming for help.

"My mind was everywhere. I didn't know what to do," she said.

Dublin Fire Brigade were called to the scene at 5.50pm but Maleek was not breathing and had no pulse when it arrived. The child was rushed to Temple Street Children's Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7pm.

Pathologist Dr Deirdre Devaney gave the cause of death as acute anaphylactic shock in a boy with known allergy to milk, eggs and fish following ingestion of food on the same date.

Paediatric allergy specialist at Temple Street, Dr Aideen Byrne, said a skin test performed in March 2016 showed no resolution of the boy's allergies and she advised ongoing avoidance of milk, fish and eggs.

Maleek's mother received two auto-injectors and was advised to carry them at all times in case of anaphylaxis. Training on the use of the injectors was given by Maleek's dietary team at Temple Street.

"His testing indicated to me that the risk of allergic reaction to food was very probable and it is impossible to predict the severity of a reaction a child might have - particularly in relation to dairy and eggs, because the format of the processing and the cooking will impact hugely on the effect they have," Dr Byrne said.

Injector

"We advise to carry the emergency injection, the Anapen, at all times because the faster it is administered the more effective it is," Dr Byrne said. The injector pen can be obtained from any chemist without prescription if an allergic reaction is suspected.

The peri-peri chicken wrap contained milk, the court heard.

McDonald's employee Kerry Byrne served Ms Lawal the takeaway meal.

"It was a normal order. There was no query about ingredients," she said.

Asked if information is supplied regarding food allergies, she answered that it was, by the till.

Returning a verdict of misadventure, Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane issued a recommendation to parents of children with allergies to consult lists provided by law by restaurants detailing ingredients of meals provided.

"The recommendation is that parents should consult such lists prior to ingestion and to reinforce the importance of carrying an auto-injector in cases of food allergy," Dr Cullinane said.

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