Spending time as a volunteer at an asthma camp in Jumonville turned into a valuable experience for Elizabeth Mamros.
The sophomore at Peters Township High School gained such an appreciation for children suffering from potentially life-threatening illnesses and allergies that she decided to enter a national scholarship contest, “Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis Challenge,” sponsored by Mylan Speciality L.P.
Her essay, “Take Time to Care, Make More People Aware of Anaphylaxis,” was one of 15 entries selected by a jury of leaders in the allergy and asthma fields, and her reward was a $2,000 scholarship.
“I have a couple friends with asthma, so I went along to the camp,” Elizabeth said. “I saw how the kids felt different, and how they felt when they couldn’t do the same things as other kids.”
Elizabeth’s essay features creative ways to educate her peers about anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that occurs when the body is exposed to an allergen, such as food, insects and latex. Onset is rapid and can cause death. Symptoms include trouble breathing, chest pain, hives or redness, tightness in the throat, swelling of the lips or tongue, nausea, dizziness or fainting.
Elizabeth, 16, daughter of Mark and Rita Mamros of McMurray, said she was surprised she won, although “I knew I had a great idea.” And she hopes some, if not all, of her ideas are implemented by the school district.
Before the weeklong awareness campaign would begin, Elizabeth suggests teachers create a video, dressing up in comical costumes representing characters faced with the challenge of living with the illness.
“A male teacher could dress up as an elephant that is discriminated against because he cannot eat peanuts like everyone else,” she writes. “His friend, a female teacher dressed as a camel, could help him by standing up for him and refusing to eat peanuts herself.
“After the morning announcements every day during anaphylaxis awareness week, the students would be able to watch one portion of the video and be left wondering what will happen next until the following day.”
She then outlines a different theme for each day of the week that is both fun and educational.
Monday, for example, could be designated Busy Bees Day. Students and teachers could wear yellow and black to look like bees, and be awarded stickers and prizes for the best costumes or outfits. For an activity, students could work in groups to create colorful posters that warn others about the risk of anaphylaxis that would be displayed around the school. Another day, students and teachers could celebrate Twin Day and dress the same as someone else to represent sharing awareness with a friend.
“With an estimated one in every 13 kids affected by a food allergy, the ‘Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis Challenge’ is an important step forward in raising awareness in school communities about this serious health issue,” Sherry Korzcynski, executive director of professional affairs at Mylan, said in a press release announcing the winners.
“As many of the entries suggested,” she said, “we need greater education and awareness in schools to help make sure everyone knows the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and understands what to do if it happens.”
Many of the entries were submitted by students who suffer from allergies. Elizabeth, however, is not among them.
“There are kids with really bad food allergies, so I know a little bit about it,” she said.
For more information about anaphylaxis, visit www.anaphylaxis101.com.