About Joseph


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Joseph Anthony DeNicola was born on March 18, 2007. When Joseph was born they started him on Similac for the first couple of days. Every time he was fed, he had a problem but were not sure exactly what it was. The Doctors then put him on Enfamil Nutramigen. This worked for about a month, then something happened. We started seeing traces of blood in his stool. The Doctors then switched his formula again and put him on Similac Alimentun. This was for babies with colic or allergies, and the Doctors assumed he had colic. I remember the very first time he had an allergic reaction. He was sick and had been on antibiotics. We brought him to the hospital. The Doctors told us he had an allergic reaction to the medicine so we were sent home. It was about 3:00 A.M. and we had no formula, except the ones the hospital gave us, which was the regular Similac advanced premade bottles. We started to feed Joseph. I was downstairs, within a matter of seconds his mother was yelling to call 911. As I ran upstairs after calling 911 his eyes were swollen shut. The ambulance came and rushed him to Hospital. We went to the ER and the Doctors again told us he was having an allergic reaction but they did not know what it was from. They recommended that we go to see an allergist. When we took him to the allergist, we found out he was anaphylactic to milk and milk proteins, which include casein and whey, and he was also allergic to hazelnuts. This is where it all started. We had to read the ingredients in everything we bought. We couldn’t just shop at the supermarket we now had to go to health food and specialty stores to find items that did not contain the ingredients he was allergic to. As he got older and was no longer on formula, he started to drink soy milk. Once we learned about his allergy, he was only allowed to have soy. The doctor explained to us that we would have to carry around an Epi-Pen Junior everywhere we went.

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Joseph’s allergies were so bad, he would not only get a reaction from eating something containing the ingredients, but he could also have a reaction just from the smell of something cooking containing these ingredients. One Christmas he was in the living room, away from the kitchen and nowhere near the food I had been cooking. He did not even come into the kitchen let alone touch or eat any of the food. Joseph ended up having an anaphylactic attack. The Epi-Pen was immediately administered and we rushed him to the Hospital only this time it was more serious. Now, if you were next to Joseph you had to make sure you washed your hands. If you drank any milk, or ate anything that had any milk products in it, you had to wash your hands. If you wanted to give Joseph a kiss you had to make sure you brushed your teeth if you had eaten anything with these ingredients in it. Joseph then started school. He was assigned a health para. His health para would stay with him all day long in school. They had to make sure they sat with him at lunch, wiped down the tables, and have all the kids wash their hands. Joseph often had to sit by himself at lunch with only his para. Joseph also had seasonal allergies and asthma. If he ran around, he would need the nebulizer. If he didn’t use the nebulizer he would start wheezing. The nurse from his school would always call me to let me know that Joseph was in the office getting a treatment. There were times in school where he did not eat anything but ended up having an allergic reaction and would have to be taken to the hospital.

As Joseph got older, he knew he was not allowed to accept food from anyone. He would say “I’m sorry I cannot have it, I’m allergic.” Or he would immediately come to us to ask if he was allowed to eat it. We had to thoroughly check the ingredients to ensure there was nothing in it that would cause an allergic reaction. Joseph did not like that he had to do this. At the age of 5, we took him to Boston’s Children’s Hospital for a research program. He was very scared. It ended up being that he was too young at the time so he was put on a waiting list. They recommended a Doctor at Mount Sinai in Manhattan. Joseph was a very active boy. Nothing stopped him. He was as normal as he could be and always happy, even with all of his allergies. He was always in high spirits, and always had a smile on his face. Then on Halloween day, October 31, 2014 Joseph was trick-or-treating with cousins, family members, and friends. After all the kids were done they all went to a party with other family members who were fully aware of all the allergies Joseph has. All of his cousins had regular pizza in one room. Joseph had a specially made pizza with only the ingredients he was allowed to eat. He sat in a separate room away from everyone, all the kids washed their hands. About fifteen minutes later all of the kids were running around playing. Joseph then sat on the couch and started to play games on the iPhone so he could cool down a little.

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Rewind a little to earlier that week, Josephs nurse had called me a few times to let me know that she had to give him the nebulizer because he was having slight asthma attacks all week. She had also called me that afternoon. I would give him the nebulizer in the morning and his nurse would administer it in the afternoon. He would also take albuterol. On Halloween I made sure I kept an emergency kit on me. I had an Epi-Pen and Benadryl, however, this reaction was unlike any of his other allergic reactions. When I took him home to put him on the nebulizer he was talking to me the whole time. I put him on the nebulizer and I asked him if he was okay. He said yes. All of a sudden he started coughing more and more. I then said to him “Joseph I have to give you the Epi-Pen,” which he responded saying “please don’t give me the Epi-Pen I’m scared.” I knew it had to be administrated. So I gave him the Epi-Pen. Seconds later Joseph fell asleep in my arms. I ran downstairs and I administrated a second Epi-Pen. I was out the door in seconds and my neighbor and I drove him to the hospital. It took us less than five minutes to get there. Once we got there, Joseph took a turn for the worst. They said they had him stable. Then the nightmare began. He went into cardiac arrest. It took them twenty minutes to bring Joseph back. They then told us they were transporting us from one hospital to another to the pediatric ward. On the way to the other hospital the ambulance driver kept saying “you boys are going home, his vital signs are great.” Four days later Joseph was pronounced brain dead. This was the hardest time of my life. We were approached by the Organ Donors Society in the hospital about donating his organs. At that time I could not even imagine donating Joseph’s organs or signing any papers. There were still more tests to be done for him to be officially pronounced brain dead, so I told them I was not interested. What parent could ever think the worst was going to happen to their child? We all held on to hope. The next day Joseph went for his test.

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The nightmare was reality. Joseph was officially pronounced brain dead. It took a lot of strength and courage to utter the words “yes we will donate Joseph’s organs.” What helped our decision was the thought of other parents having to endure the nightmare we just had to. Our worst nightmares became reality. We did not want any other parents to go through what we went through and we did not want any more children to suffer. Joseph saved 5 lives that day by donating his organs. Joseph was always a giving little boy. If there was a line for something, Joseph would let everyone go first and he would wait quietly for his turn. He never complained. He appreciated everything that was given to him. His heart was so big and full of Donating Joseph’s organs was one of the best things that we ever did. It gave us peace and comfort to know that Joseph lives on through all of the people he saved. In life he was always giving, and he will continue to give through his foundation, through education and research on allergies and asthma. Joseph passed on November 4, 2014. It didn’t matter if you met him only once, because that was all it took for him to touch your soul and change your life forever. His smile was contagious. Joseph will continue to live on forever in all of our prayers, in all of our minds, and most importantly, in all of our hearts.

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