Monique Altamirano was so careful about her daughter’s allergies that she dreaded the idea of leaving Denise in someone else’s care.
As Fox News reports, 11-year-old Denise Saldate of West Covina, California, was diagnosed with a milk allergy while she was still an infant. Her parents always kept EpiPens nearby and carefully scanned the labels of everything Denise was exposed to.
In addition to dairy products, Denise was also allergic to shrimp, wheat, peanuts, and egg whites. Her mother told Yahoo News:
“I cried each time I left Denise in someone else’s care because some people don’t take allergies seriously.”
Denise’s father, Jose Saldate, added that they always tried to ensure that their daughter could participate in events by packing safe foods for her:
“We packed her specific desserts to eat at birthday parties and worked with her school on the correct lunch foods.”
In early April, Altamarino took her daughter to the dentist. After noticing spots on Denise’s teeth, the dentist recommended the young girl use a specific brand of medicated toothpaste — MI Paste One — in order to strengthen her enamel.
Altamarino had always been diligent about reading labels, but after years of reading toothpaste labels and never seeing milk on them, the mom didn’t think to check the label of her daughter’s new toothpaste. That’s why she never saw the warning that MI Paste One contains milk proteins and Recaldant, a product derived from milk protein.
“I did not think to look at the product ingredients,” Altamarino told Allergic Living. “She was just excited to have her special toothpaste.”
That evening, when Denise began brushing her teeth, the anaphylactic reaction started immediately. The girl began crying and ran to her mother for help. Altamarino recalled:
“She said, ‘I think I’m having an allergic reaction to the toothpaste,’ and her lips were already blue. I picked her up and put her on my bed. I ran to the living room, told my daughter, ‘Call 911!’ and I grabbed the EpiPen.”
Altamarino gave her daughter the EpiPen and an inhaler:
“She was saying, ‘Mommy, I can’t breathe.’ I was saying, ‘I love you, yes, you can.'”
As they waited for the ambulance to arrive, the mom began giving her daughter CPR.
Denise was rushed to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her mother told Allergic Living:
“She wasn’t just the light in my life, her smile didn’t just brighten my day, that was just who she was. Multiple kids were saying: ‘She was my best friend; she gave the best advice; she helped me get my grades up; she always wanted me to be happy when I was sad.’ That was Denise.”
Denise’s parents are now sharing their story to try to help others understand why you can never relax your vigilance around children with allergies.
“Contrary to what everyone’s telling me, I feel like I failed her,” a tearful Altamarino told Allergic Living. ”
The mom added that parents should check every label every time in order to protect their children:
“Read everything. Don’t get comfortable, just because you’ve been managing for several years. You can’t get comfortable or be embarrassed or afraid to ask and ensure that ingredients are OK. Be that advocate for your child.”
Friends have started a GoFundMe to help the family with Denise’s funeral costs. Altamarino says their hope is that they can save another child by sharing her story.
“We can’t bring Denise back but we can help others in her name,” the mom told Yahoo. “Denise wanted to change the world, but it’s heartbreaking how she’s doing it.”