Severely allergic student engineers bright future

A SPORTS-loving teenager who has suffered from life-threatening food allergies since he was a baby is engineering a bright future for himself after achieving top grades in his GCSEs.

Ripon Grammar School student Toby Redfern has never let his severe allergies, which have seen him rushed to hospital six times, including twice following reactions at school, stop him leading a normal life.

He achieved fours 9s, one 8, one 7, three 6s, one 5 and an A in further maths (which is still letter graded) and plans to study engineering at university following A-levels in maths, physics, chemistry and business studies: “I’m very happy. I was hoping for the 9s but wasn’t sure what else I’d get,” he said.

Having grown up with the knowledge that coming into contact with even small traces of foodstuffs including wheat, egg, dairy, nuts and legumes, could trigger an anaphylactic reaction where his throat closes up and he struggles to breathe, Toby takes it all in his stride.

The outgoing 16-year-old, from Studley Roger, plays football and tennis as well as taking part in triathlons and always carries two lifesaving adrenaline injectors to help him manage the condition.

His close friends have all been trained in what to do in the case of an emergency: “The most annoying thing is I can’t just pick up things to eat like my friends do,” says Toby.

Toby’s most severe reaction occurred in his second year when he was with a schoolfriend in Ripon Market Place and drank from a bottle of juice which had somehow been contaminated.

His mother Jane explained: “His friend administered an adrenaline injection – which reverses the allergic reaction - and people nearby helped him by calling an ambulance, which took 45 minutes to arrive. By the time I arrived his symptoms were returning so he needed a second adrenaline injection – which was pretty terrifying.”

Toby also says he’s grateful to the trained staff at Ripon Grammar School who have twice had to administer adrenaline injections: “Everyone at school has been very caring and supportive.”

Jane added: “The school has been incredible with Toby, from organising regular allergy training of staff to developing care plans and risk assessments and trying to create a nut free environment – in fact this was one of the reasons we chose Ripon Grammar School,” said Jane.

“Classmates have also been incredibly supportive, in particular his close friends.” She also praised the Anaphylaxis Campaign: “This is an incredible source of information and advice, and they have some fantastic factsheets too.”

She first realised Toby suffered from food allergies at six months old, when he dramatically lost weight and began to clutch at his throat and scream in pain after eating.

“His first major allergy incident was when he was exposed to egg and became floppy and lifeless. We called an ambulance and, luckily, he came round.

“The good news is that in the past three years, under the care of the Dr Louise Michaelis and her fabulous team at the Great North Children’s Hospital he has undergone a number of food challenges and can now eat tree nuts, wheat, dairy, and shellfish, so he is now only allergic to egg, peanuts and legumes, such as peas and lentils, which is life-changing.

“As a teenager he is becoming much more independent and responsible for managing his allergies, the most difficult thing is that he needs to plan what and where he is going to eat in advance whereas most teenagers can enjoy more spontaneity The upside of his allergies is that he has an incredibly healthy diet so is very fit, enjoying sports such as triathlon, football and tennis.”

*The school’s 133 GCSE students are celebrating success this year with 61.6 per cent achieving 9-7(A*-A) grades and 92.7 per cent of all grades awarded being 9-5(A*-B).

This follows an outstanding set of A-level results last week at Ripon Grammar School, one of only 35 state boarding schools and one of only five grammar schools in the country to offer boarding.