independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Raw grief at funeral of tragic girl who died from peanut allergy

Family and friends say goodbye to loving teen

The funeral of Emma Sloan at the Church of our Lady of Good Counsel, Crumlin

SHE was an X Factor fanatic, a devoted follower of fashion and a "loving daughter" who had already told her granny she had bought her slippers as her Christmas present. She was generous, vivacious and kind.

She was just 14 years old when she died.

The sense of overwhelming grief at the funeral of Emma Sloan, in the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel on Dublin's Mourne Road in Drimnagh, was palpable yesterday. Heartbroken mourners, shivering outside the church, wiped away tears.

Her third-year classmates in Our Lady of Mercy secondary school turned out in their navy uniforms to form a guard of honour. To the strains of Lily Allen's Christmas song Somewhere Only We Know Emma's white coffin was carried into the church.

Amid the searing grief, people of all ages wept openly as they bade farewell to a music-loving girl who "got more into her 14 years than most did in a lifetime".

Her heartbroken mother Caroline, 40, was flanked by two family members who helped her into the church, where over 1,500 mourners had gathered to pay their respects.

Emma's all-too-short life ended when she collapsed and died on Dublin's O'Connell Street, having suffered anaphylactic shock brought on by a peanut allergy last week.

Emma had unknowingly eaten satay sauce, which is almost pure peanut paste, at a Chinese restaurant in the city centre on Wednesday evening.

When she began showing signs of going into anaphylactic shock, her mother brought her to the nearby Hamilton Long pharmacy where she was refused the EpiPen autoinjector as she did not have her prescription.

Emma and her mother Caroline usually carry the auto-injector, but had left it at home on Wednesday when they went shopping in town. The mother and daughter were advised to go to an A&E department but Emma collapsed on the pavement outside the chemist and died. A doctor and passing ambulance crew attempted unsuccessfully to resuscitate her.

A Garda sudden death inquiry is under way -- which is standard procedure. The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland is also carrying out an inquiry -- but so far it has declined to comment on the refusal to prescribe the auto-injector despite the emergency.

Under the society's regulations, pharmacists can dispense medicine in emergencies but many are uncertain. The adrenaline in the auto-injector could have potentially fatal effects on some people.

Inside the church yesterday, mourners knelt in prayer as they remembered the teenager. Movingly, friends brought items to the altar that symbolised her life: perfume; her mobile phone; tickets for the X Factor show at the O2 next year, and her make-up box -- the innocent paraphernalia of a teenage life.

Celebrant of the funeral mass, Fr David Brannagan, speaking directly to Emma's mother, said few could fully comprehend her grief. He said Emma had achieved so much in her short life and enjoyed every moment with intensity and energy.

She had brought immense joy and happiness to her mother and two sisters, Amy, 20, and Mia, 2, he said.

The sound of weeping could be heard during the service in the packed church.

Fr Brannagan said one thing was constant throughout the chronicle of Emma's 14 years -- her infectious smile.

"The sense of disbelief and profound sadness is beyond words. She was a vivacious young woman," he said.

"The family have the open wounds of raw grief. There's a sense of disbelief that a family outing in a city centre restaurant could have ended in such a harrowing tragedy.

"She was one of a kind, quirky, funny and loving. She was always texting her friends and family with her beloved mobile. She was buzzing with the onset of Christmas."

He recalled an "unspeakable sadness" in the family home after Emma's untimely death last Wednesday.

"Caroline was being cradled by two loved ones. There were heavy silences. No one knew where to turn or what to say," he said. "It seemed the capacity for words of comfort had become bankrupt.

"Emma was anticipating going to Paris next year with her classmates. She was someone who was never afraid to be her own person. She got more into her 14 years, and touched more people in that short time, than many of us do in a whole lifetime," he continued.

"She was full of fun, loved dancing and was passionate about life and those she loved."

Mark Gannon, Emma's godfather, spoke from the altar on behalf of Emma's mother.

His voice shook as he struggled to contain his emotions. "She loved her granny so much," he said.

"She would ring her before bed to tell her that she loved her. She idolised her sisters. She sometimes fought with them like cats and dogs, but half an hour later they'd be sitting together, eating a curry and watching Geordie Shore.

"She had places she wanted to go and things she wanted to do. But she will live on in all of us and will never be forgotten," he said.

Emma's coffin was carried out of the church as white and red heart-shaped balloons were released by her friends. Her remains were taken to Mount Jerome crematorium.

Irish Independent

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