'I never felt so close to death.' Dix Hills student suffering allergic reaction says school officials assumed she was on drugs

News 12 reached out to the school for comment but have not heard back.

Thema Ponton

May 1, 2023, 9:38 PM

Updated 448 days ago

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A Suffolk County family is pleading for accountability after they say their daughter nearly died at her junior prom due to a severe allergic reaction.
The Half Hollow Hills West High School student and her father claim the adults at the school did not help her or call 911 because they assumed she was on drugs.
Seventeen-year-old Arianna Varghese says she ate what she thought was a white chocolate cookie shortly after arriving to her junior prom Friday. Once her throat started to itch and she felt sick, the teenager - who has a severe nut allergy - realized the cookie must have had nuts in it.
Varghese says while she was vomiting in the bathroom and in the nurse's office, school officials - including a nurse and the principal - asked her what kind of drugs she was on.
The student told them she was having an allergic reaction and needed help. Varghese claims instead of helping her, they watched her struggle, continued to ask about drugs and searched her bag.
"I was sobbing, I couldn't breathe, I felt my throat like closing, I have never felt...so close to death in my life," Varghese said.
Eventually, Varghese says she managed to call her father and told him she thought she was having an allergic reaction. Her father, Daniel Varghese, who is a physician's assistant, says he raced to the school with an EpiPen and was shocked to find his daughter struggling to breathe.
"The nurse is asking me, 'You really need to let us know what substance Arianna's taking,'" Daniel Varghese says. "I said, 'No, this is not substance, this an allergic reaction. This is not substance abuse; this is an allergic reaction.' And in my head, I said, 'Why are you profiling my child, is it because she's brown, you're profiling her for drugs?'"
Daniel Varghese says the school is known to be nut-free, so he wants to know how the cookie was even there as an option. He also says he wants the adults who were there to be held accountable for not immediately helping his daughter.
News 12 reached out to the school for comment but have not heard back.


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