Anaphylactic death shows why we need to be more aware of undiagnosed allergies

First aid training needs to emphasise the differences between asthma and anaphylaxis. At our first aid training premises in Dickson, Canberra. We make sure that students understand the importance of learning first aid. We wish the family of Marcus all the best and hope that giving this information will help save a life in the future.

IT HAS almost been four years since the life of eight-year-old Marcus Terranova was tragically cut short. The Sydney schoolboy was playing sport at after school care when he was thought to be having an asthma attack, and his ventolin wasn’t working.

Instead, it was an undiagnosed food-related anaphylactic reaction that claimed the life of the St Ives youngster.

A report to the coroner following the 2013 attack found that the most likely allergen to have triggered the deadly reaction was peanut, or possibly an undiagnosed allergy to cashews or kiwifruit.

Here, Marcus’s grieving aunt, Amanda Terranova, recalls that fateful August day, and shares feelings of the family’s loss. The Global Anaphylaxis Awareness and Inclusivity Ambassador for Change urges Australians to take allergies seriously. For Marcus’s sake.

“It was a balmy, windy and an unseasonably warm winters day in Sydney, Australia on Tuesday 6th August 2013.

I had decided not to attend the second day of an aged care conference. I was tired and managing a day of crippling anxiety. My body and heart were wrestling with my logical brain. I was experiencing a nervous anxiousness, akin to a feeling of dread and danger, which kept me on high alert the entire day.

Just after 5pm, my husband answered a call from his brother, John.

The colour drained from my husbands face as he explained that an ambulance had been called for Marcus, his eight-year old nephew.

“It doesn’t look good.”

My husband and I drove towards the Royal North Shore Hospital, in NSW.

“It doesn’t look good.”

We drove, mostly in silence with my husband repeating the words of his brother.

“It doesn’t look good”.

Marcus Terranova died from an undiagnosed allergy.

Marcus Terranova died from an undiagnosed allergy.Source:Supplied

We both commented that we were feeling physically sick but we comforted each other with;

“He has experienced asthma attacks before, it will be OK.”

“Hospital is the best place for him to be, it will be OK.”

“Let’s just get there safely, it will be OK.”

Life around us was slowing down and simultaneously speeding up.

It was starting to feel like a movie. A movie we were watching, but not a movie we had a part in. We ran to the emergency department, with heavy limbs and hopeful hearts.

My husband couldn’t talk.

“Our nephew has been brought in by ambulance, we are his Aunty and Uncle. His name is Marcus and he is eight years old.”

A nurse met us at the emergency doors. She was warm and professional.

“Please come with me, something has happened and I want you to be strong.”

We turned a corner in the hospital hallway and then another.

And then another.

We saw John first. Then we saw Marcus.

My memory is dusty, confused and muddled. Trauma does that. However, I do remember my husband, John and I grabbing for each other, forming a tight huddle and my husband screaming “No”.

This thought is vivid. Still. Most likely forever.

Marcus was dead.

I have used writing and poetry throughout my life, especially in times of grief or sadness. Cathartic. Sometimes I share with others, but more often I do not.

Some things are too painful to think about, to have the courage or the strength to actually write it down is unthinkable.

Some things you have to question ‘is this even my story to tell’? I wrestle constantly with the blurred lines of observer and participant.

The universe is currently conspiring against me. As so often happens when you do find the courage to speak, you find others with the same or similar experiences.

On the 6th of August in 2013 I sat firmly on the outside. It was a solid and safe place to sit.

During the seconds, hours, days, weeks, months and years that have followed, I have sat, uncomfortably at times, but always on the outside.

There were so many others grieving the loss of this dear little boy; his father, mother, sister, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends, teachers. My husband.

The whys, the viewing, the funeral, the gut wrenching sobs.

The loss, the gravesite, the Christmas, the Birthdays, the Easter, the holidays, the future.

The every things.

Marcus had a beautiful, loving and warm soul, a cheeky smile and a wonderful sense of humour. We still find it hard to believe he has gone.

I stayed on the outside. It was far too painful to process. As we approach Marcus’s 12th Birthday and the fourth anniversary without him, I have started to talk more openly, to think more openly. It still hurts.

Marcus didn’t have an asthma attack. He was being treated for eczema, asthma and allergies.

We didn’t know he was anaphylactic.

I can’t stay on the outside anymore.

Marcus you are in ALL of our hearts, forever. We promise.”

Because of Marcus’s story, Sydney teachers Courtney and Jarrad Dober founded CleverDux, creating a ‘see and save’ wristband system for students with medical conditions. For more information visit

For more information on GLOBALAAI, visit

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