First day, last good­bye

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - HEATHER RIVERS

The death of a Lon­don boy who col­lapsed on the first day of class, stun­ning his school and jar­ring the city, was caused by an asthma attack, his mother tells Post­media News.

Abigail Le is speak­ing pub­licly for the first time, a week af­ter her son, Alex, 11, a sixth-grader at Cedar Hol­low el­e­men­tary school in north­east Lon­don, col­lapsed on the first day of school last Tues­day. He died a day later, af­ter be­ing taken off life sup­port.

Le says a tragic mix of ex­cite­ment from school start­ing, com­pounded by re­cess ac­tiv­ity, the day’s muggy weather and the start of al­lergy sea­son, likely trig­gered the se­vere asthma attack.

“Those four com­bined at that mo­ment,” Le said, adding the boy used his puffer, but it failed to stop the asthma attack.

“He asked one of his friends to tell the teacher be­cause his puffer wasn’t work­ing.”

Dy­ing of asthma is ex­ceed­ingly rare, with only about 250 Cana­di­ans dy­ing each year from the chronic disease that causes air­ways to swell, block­ing the flow of air to the lungs.

Hun­dreds turned out for week­end vis­i­ta­tions and Alex’s fu­neral Mon­day, Le said, in­clud­ing many for­mer and cur­rent teach­ers, even peo­ple who didn’t know him.

“The teach­ers said Alex was the type of stu­dent that ev­ery teacher wants. He is very sweet, un­der­stand­ing and lov­ing,” she said.

Tues­day, she shared sweet mem­o­ries of the boy who she says loved to cud­dle and had an unusual dream for life as a grown-up.

“For Mother's Day, he bought me a bracelet with two hearts. He said, ‘Mommy, I got a good dis­count be­cause the lady thought I was so cute,' ” she said. “I keep wear­ing it — this is the last thing he bought me and he was so proud. It's price­less.”

As for the fu­ture, he had an un­ex­pected plan, his mother re­called.

“I al­ways asked him, ‘Well, what do you want to do when you grow up — I know you like sports, do you want to play hockey or some­thing like that?' ” Le said. “He said, ‘No mom, you silly — I can't even breathe — I want to be a garbage man.'”

The rea­son for his choice, she said, was be­cause garbage men “meet a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple and they get to clean up peo­ple's mess.”

Abigail Le shares cus­tody of her two sons with their fa­ther, Minh Le. He also shared warm mem­o­ries of his boy with The Free Press Tues­day.

“He was very sweet and usu­ally quite up­beat,” he said. “He was very en­er­getic and al­ways happy.”

Three months be­fore school started, they vis­ited a spe­cial­ist who said his lung ca­pac­ity was con­sid­er­ably less than a nor­mal child, Abigail Le said, but Alex loved play­ing out­side and rarely com­plained.

Both Alex and his brother, Ai­dan, now 15, were born with asthma, their mother says. Alex's asthma at­tacks, how­ever, grew more se­ri­ous

He loved his bike and was al­ways out­side

and could be trig­gered just by laughing or eat­ing if he was tired, she said.

“That didn't stop him. He was a kid, he loved life,” she said. “He would tell me, ‘I am so mad at my asthma be­cause I want to play to soc­cer, I want to play bas­ket­ball.' ”

Last month, she bought him a bike and taught him to ride it. He told her he didn't want sum­mer to end.

“He loved his bike and was al­ways out­side," she re­called. "Ev­ery time, he wanted to spend more time play­ing.”

The stun­ning at-school tragedy hit Le about 2 p.m. on the first day of class, when she got a phone call say­ing her boy was hav­ing a med­i­cal emer­gency. She says she ar­rived at hos­pi­tal to see her son sur­rounded by doc­tors and nurses try­ing to re­vive him.

“I never imag­ined see­ing my son like this,” she said. “The doc­tor kept say­ing, 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.' You never want a doc­tor telling you this.”

Doc­tors, she said, told her Alex had been without oxy­gen to his brain for 55 min­utes, dur­ing which teach­ers and then paramedics tried to re­vive him. Alex died the next evening, af­ter be­ing taken off life sup­port.

The death rocked his school and sparked an outpouring of grief, Amanda Feeser, head of Cedar Hol­low's school coun­cil, said last week. Stuffed an­i­mals and flow­ers were left near the school's flag­pole as a trib­ute to Alex and board of­fi­cials said coun­selors were avail­able to as­sist stu­dents and staff.

Abigail Le says she be­lieves teach­ers, paramedics and hos­pi­tal staff did the best they could and she isn't push­ing for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what happened.

Of her son, she said sim­ply, “He's at peace.”

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Alex Le, 11, a Lon­don sixth-grader who died last week af­ter a se­vere asthama attack on the first day of school, is be­ing re­mem­bered as a sweet, happy and en­er­getic young­ster “who loved life,” his mother says.

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