Long Island teen's allergic reaction allegedly mistaken for drug use by school officials: Family

Arianna Varghese had been looking forward to her junior prom for weeks. The 17-year-old from Half Hollow Hills High School West in Dix Hills, NY, had the perfect dress, the perfect date, and the perfect night planned. However, her dream prom night quickly turned into a nightmare when she ate a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie that triggered a severe allergic reaction.

"I kept throwing up, couldn’t breathe. I was convinced it was the day I was going to die," she said. 

Arianna, who has a severe tree nut and peanut allergy, immediately alerted the school nurse. But instead of recognizing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, Varghese and her father, Daniel, say the nurse and other school officials accused her of using drugs.

"I could feel my throat trying to close up. I tried to the best of my ability to tell her I'm not on any drugs. I think I ate something I'm allergic to," Arianna said.

According to a district spokesperson, the school nurse acted immediately and began asking questions to assess what care was needed and started treatment for an allergic reaction including the administration of Benadryl and a non-patient-specific EpiPen, and contacted the student’s parents and first responders. 

But Daniel, who is a physician's assistant, says the nurse didn’t administer the EpiPen until he arrived and didn’t call an ambulance until he questioned where it was.

"There’s a huge time gap from the time of ingestion to the time of treatment," he said. "I’m absolutely beside myself. What if I wasn’t home? What if I was 15 min away?" 

The Half Hollow School District says the building is not nut-free adding from the time the nurse was called and began treating the child to the time first responders arrived, approximately 15 min had passed. Arianna’s family disputes the timeline. 

"From the time of ingestion to the first EpiPen, was over 40 minutes," Daniel said. 

Arianna plans to carry an EpiPen at all times now. Her family says they’re determined to seek what they call verifiable change and they’re not ruling out a lawsuit.