CARMICHAEL, CA - It was supposed to be the last day of a family vacation at a popular summer camp, but it ended in tragedy for one Sacramento-area family when a loved one had a fatal allergic reaction.
Relatives says 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi died from a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter while she was attending Camp Sacramento off Highway 50 in El Dorado County.
Now, the family says it really wants to get the message out about how dangerous and deadly food allergies can be.
Giorgi was very careful about what she ate and always made sure her food did not have nuts, according to family and friends.
But she had unknowingly eaten a Rice Krispies-type snack made with peanut butter.
On Friday night, the final night of camp, there was entertainment and refreshments. A dessert tray was put out in a dark area of the camp.
Giorgi reached for a treat and took a bite out of it. She knew something wasn't right, spit it out and told her mother, who also tasted the treat.
They later realized it contained peanut butter. Natalie felt fine for about 20 minutes, but then began vomiting, had trouble breathing and went into cardiac arrest.
Three epinephrine pens were used but they could not help save the girl, according a family friend.
Giorgi was taken to the hospital by ambulance where she was pronounced dead.
Family and friends are coming to terms with Giorgi's sudden death.
"She took every care. She knew the situation that's (connected to) the allergy she had. And they were really on it all the time," said Pastor Michael Kiernan of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Carmichael.
A special vigil was held at the church for Giorgi Sunday evening.
Some say they'll remember her smile and laughter. Others will remember how much she loved to draw and how much she loved her friends.
Her family said Giorgi wanted to become a neonatologist to care for premature babies like her and her twin sister.
Meanwhile, family members extended their gratitude to the paramedics, firefighters and everyone who tried to help save Natalie.
They offered the following written statement:
While our hearts are breaking over the tragic loss of our beautiful daughter Natalie, it is our hope that others can learn from this and realize that nut and food allergies are life threatening. Caution and care for those inflicted should always be supported and taken.
An allergist said food allergies and nut allergies have tripled in the past decade. He says more people need to understand the dangers of food allergies and that they can sometimes be fatal.
By Suzanne Phan, firstname.lastname@example.org