British Columbia

10-year-old boy suffers anaphylactic shock after playing in Surrey park grass

A South Surrey family is raising concerns after their 10-year-old boy suffered a life-threatening anaphylactic shock while playing in the long grass in a city park behind their home.

Doctor says it's an extremely rare and life-threatening allergy to certain grasses

Calla Oxley says she was taken by surprise when her 10-year-old son Wade had a life-threatening allergic reaction to grass in a South Surrey park. (Eva Uguen-Csenge/CBC News)

A South Surrey family is raising concerns after their 10-year-old boy suffered a life-threatening anaphylactic shock while playing in the long grass in a city park behind their home.

The parents of Wade Oxley say his throat closed up and he had difficulty breathing within minutes of playing in the tall brown grass in Bayview Woods Park on June 29.

"I didn't know that Wade could become anaphylactic to grass," said his mother Calla Oxley. "I thought it was something that he had to ingest."

Wade Oxley, 10, demonstrates how to use the EpiPen he carries with him for his nut and grass allergies. (Eva Uguen-Csenge/CBC News)

The boy's body was also covered in hives. His parents rushed him to the hospital where he received an EpiPen shot, an intravenous drip and oxygen therapy. It took the 10-year-old three days of bed rest and steroid medication to fully recover.

Allergy experts have since confirmed that Wade Oxley, who is allergic to nuts, has a rare and very dangerous anaphylactic reaction to certain grasses as well.

"He's just one of those unfortunate kids [who] really, really has severe reactions," said the family's physician, Dr. Bernice Brits.

"This is so scary for us within our own backyard because it's not something we can control," said his mother. "We can avoid nuts but we can't avoid the allergens blowing into our property."

The Oxley family's property in South Surrey is adjacent to Bayview Woods Park and Wade and his two brothers often play there. 

His doctor believes Wade had a life-threatening reaction because the pollen count is particularly high this time of year. Calla and her husband Paul Oxley say the situation is even more dangerous for their son because the City of Surrey has stopped mowing the grass as regularly as it used to.

They say they've been told by city officials that's because of budget cuts related to COVID-19.  Municipal staff confirmed they've been speaking directly with the Oxley family about the issue. 

"The types of grass in the park and the meadow are common throughout our region and beyond," said Neal Aven, acting general manager of parks in a statement to CBC News. "Parks staff understand that direct contact with the tall grass in the Bayview Woods Park meadow was the cause of the allergic reaction.  As a result, city staff has since cut the grass in the meadow and are continuing to work with the Oxley family."

Paul Oxley says a large part of the grass at Bayview Woods Park has been left unmowed by the City of Surrey. (Harman/CBC News)

However, the Oxley parents say only part of the grass has been mowed and the trimmings haven't been contained.

"The doctors have told us that it's not safe to be on the property with the allergen in the backyard because the wind will blow it into our yard."

In the meantime, Calla Oxley has taken Wade and her two other sons to stay at the family's second home in Whistler to keep him safe.

Wade's parents say doctors are trying to determine whether he could benefit from immunotherapy treatment, but in the meantime they've recommended he take antihistamines before going out to play.

Calla Oxley says if the grass isn't cut, her son might have to wear an N-95 mask at home and carry an EpiPen on him at all times.

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