Aug. 29, 2013 -- The parents of Natalie Giorgi, a 13-year-old girl who died July 27 after eating a camp treat containing peanuts, have launched a foundation to educate other parents and children about the dangers of food allergies.
Natalie was vacationing with her family at Camp Sacramento in California's Eldorado National Forest Friday when she grabbed a crispy rice treat off a dessert tray at the campsite, ABC affiliate KXTV reported. But it was dark, and the teen failed to realize that the treat had been made with peanut butter before taking a bite.
Natalie quickly spit out the mouthful and alerted her mom, but it was too late. Within 20 minutes, she began vomiting and had difficulty breathing, a family friend told KXTV.
Three epinephrine autoinjectors were used in an effort to quell the full-body allergic reaction, according to the family friend, but Natalie went into cardiac arrest. She was rushed to the nearest hospital by ambulance but pronounced dead upon arrival.
The teenager's grieving parents, Louis and Joanne Giorgi, created the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Foundation to "reduce dangerous food allergy deaths by spreading public awareness, provide education regarding emergency responses and increase the availability of epinephrine injectors in public places," according to the foundation's website.
"If we can change the minds of certain communities that foods can be lethal, we want people to be educated," Louis Giorgi told KXTV.
Since Natalie's death, her parents have learned that her sister, Catherine, is also allergic to peanuts, KXTV reported.
"A small amount of peanut, if you're a sensitive person, can be fatal," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor of pediatrics and chief of the division of allergy and immunology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "And the peanut is a pretty common food, which can be hidden in things, so it's hard to avoid."
One in 20 U.S. children has a food allergy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Peanuts are among the most common food allergens, which also include cow's milk, eggs, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soybeans and wheat. Peanuts are also one of the deadliest food allergens, according to Sicherer.
"Natalie would be thrilled that people are now starting to think about it and saying, 'Wait a second, I never took that child's food allergy seriously.' She'd like that," Joanne Giorgi told KXTV.
Born premature, Natalie wanted to be a neonatologist to help babies in need, according to the foundation's website.
"She always had her eye on the little ones whether at school, home or large family gatherings," the site reads. "Yet it will be Natalie's infectious laugh, radiant smile, zest for living and her uncompromising attitude for attacking life's many hurdles thrown her way [that] will never be forgotten by the many people who knew and loved her."