Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino
Discover How to Be Your Best
In Memory of BJ Hom

By Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino

In Memory of BJ Hom
By Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino

It is a trend that is on an upward climb. Food allergies are on the rise, especially in younger people. It is estimated now that at least 1 in 13 children have food allergies. Most people think of an allergy as hives, but Anaphylaxis, is an often fatal reaction to 8 common foods: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, wheat, eggs, fish and shellfish.

With allergic reactions, they often get progressively worse with exposure to the allergen, as appears to be the case with BJ Hom, who lost his life in 2008.

His dad, Brian Hom has vowed to spread the word about the severity and hidden dangers of food allergies. He lost his son BJ who died from an allergic reaction while on vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico to celebrate his BJ’s high school graduation and his 18th birthday.

After eating at the dinner buffet, BJ said, "Dad, my throat hurts. Can you get me some cough drops?"

“Those were the last words I heard my son BJ ever say,” said Brian Hom.

BJ and his dad went to the gift shop to purchase cough drops and afterward BJ took the cough drops and walked away with his Mom. Minutes later BJ's lips turned blue and his face pale, gasping for breath. He died that night from an allergic reaction to peanuts in a dessert from the dinner buffet.

"It was like someone reached in and ripped our hearts out", after witnessing the death of BJ in the lobby of the resort said Brian Hom of San Jose, California.

Since then, Hom has been speaking about the dangers of food allergies and educating people about protecting themselves and their children from a possible life-threatening or deadly reaction.

“BJ had never been tested for food allergies, but he knew from his experience with fish -- and the hives he'd get when eating peanut
butter -- that he should avoid certain foods. He seemed to manage these relatively mild reactions with antihistamines and did not carry an epinephrine auto-injector. We always heard the stories, but we thought every time he'd get a reaction it would be these hives or itchy throat and he'd just feel uncomfortable," Hom said. "We thought, OK, then, we're safe. You don't think it could get to the fatal stage."

After BJ's death in July 2008, Hom had his other sons, Brandon and Steven, tested for food allergies. They both tested positive for peanut allergy, which may have explained why Steven broke out in hives after eating the same dessert from the buffet that led to his brother's death.

The Homs make sure to have an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) around all the time for Steven, who is now 15. But Brandon, 18, says he doesn't need to carry one, because he had no reaction to an oral test for peanut allergy.

““I would like to tell the world to be vigilant, do not assume that a mild reaction to food reaction will not lead to a full blown Anaphylactic Shock which will lead to sudden death. I wish we had a 2nd chance for BJ, but we did not so I am doing everything I can do to protect my other 2 sons and to educate the world so one else has to suffer a loss like my family has. Losing a child is parent's worst nightmare. You never think about burying your child and to lose a life to food is unthinkable. I am raising awareness with FAAN's 1st Annual BJ Hom Memorial 5K Run in San Jose, California,” said Hom.

To participate in the BJ Hom Memorial 5K Run or for more information visit: http://www.foodallergywalk.org/site/TR/2011Walks/2011Walks?fr_id=2020&pg=entry