Words by Robert Debbs About His Son, Oakley.
Thank you all for being here. It is a true testament to Oakley, his friends and this community. I know what Oakley would be thinking if he had such a big crowd; he would ask all of you to like his newest sport tricks video on You Tube. He always wanted to get 5,000 likes!
Oakley wanted to succeed in everything he participated in. He was fiercely competitive. When we woke up in the morning he wanted to be the first one at school. He wanted me to beat all the other parents while driving on Flagler, asking me to get in front of one of his classmates and getting mad at me if I didn’t. He wanted to get straight A’s, he wanted to finish his test first, and he wanted to get the best time on his rediker tests. He had already connected the dots, understanding if you got good grades, you went to a good school, which allowed you to get a good job. He wanted a big house. He always asked me whether this particular job (mine) was a good job or not. He was driven.
He was a great athlete. He loved all sports, both playing them and following them. He loved the NY Giants and Eli Manning. He had the same frustration with them as I did and my father did. He was mad at me for making him like this unreliable team. He followed every stat and discussed them with adults. He knew more than I did. He was an excellent soccer player and- loved the sport, he made quarterback this year on his flag football team. He ran track, won his mini marathon and had the longest long jump for his age, close to 13 feet. He skied, surfed, and played. He was always playing a game with his sister or his friends. Challenging them in every activity. This made Oakley happy.
Oakley was the best child a parent could ask for. We rarely had to discipline him. He was honest as the day is long. He would immediately apologize if he felt did something wrong. Although he teased his sister constantly, as all siblings do, we would rarely intervene. Most of the time it was he was questioning myself or Merrill. Were we eating the right foods, did we have a second glass of wine? Was St. Michael’s College a competitive college? Was my job a good one? When are we building the house? Was the Hyundai as fast a Bugatti? I was like what is a Bugatti?
The most endearing part to Oakley was his sincere loyalty to his family and friends. He held his friends in the closest regards. They were the most important to him and wanted to be with them always. He was sincere, kind, sympathetic, and challenged them to everything he could. He loved to joke and make jokes, he had an excellent sense of humor.
He was loyal to his church. He called himself an Episca Pelican! He loved his School Rosarian Academy. He was telling me how Rosarian might be able to beat the Day School this year that their soccer team was really good. He loved Florida. Swimming, boogie boarding and playing soccer at the Bath and Tennis Beach. He loved the Bath and Tennis and thought we were not being loyal by getting a summer membership to the Sailfish Club. He was a funny kid!
Most of all he loved his family. He would do anything for his mother, sister, myself, grandparents or cousins. I would hear him tell stories to his friends on how his mom went University of Miami and was a great tennis player or that Olivia made the best movies, or how he couldn’t wait to his cousins in New Jersey or how Chatty and Gamma were the best grandmas, or how his family took him on the best trip!
He was a consummate gentleman scholar and athlete. He was the man I always wanted to be. He was all of our best friends and we don’t know what to do without him.
I hope he is looking down on us saying not to worry, he’s got this, and he will help others.
Letters to the Debbs Family
I'm not exactly sure who I will be reaching with this email but I feel compelled to tell Oakley's parents thank you for saving my son's life with his story. One week ago, my son Rory went into anaphylaxis from a single ant bite he got while playing at school. My son is 4 years old and has had a rough four years of asthmatic episodes and hospital visits due to crazy allergens. I too administer late night neb treatments, Benadryl, and do my best to keep his asthma under control. We have known for awhile that Rory had a severe allergy to ants and were given Epipens in the event of an emergency, but I never thought I would actually have to use it.
Last week, I picked Rory up from school and he was complaining of his foot hurting. I told him I was sure his shoes were too small and it was time for new ones. A few hours later he was still complaining of his foot hurting so I checked it out and it looked like a mosquito bite so I gave him a little Benadryl to help the swelling. About an hour after, Rory vomited and complained of his stomach aching, along with sweating and complaining of being dizzy.It was ONLY because of your story that I read about 6-9 months ago that I knew what was going on with Rory.
Something clicked and I remembered about your son's stomach ache. I quickly got him in the car gave him the Epipen and made it in about 5 minutes to the ER. His blood pressure was dropping and his oxygen was plummeting. They administered another Epipen and stabilized him with Albuterol, another dose of Benadryl and steroids. We spent a long night in the ER, but thankfully Rory was ok. Your son's story saved Rory's life last week.
I am 100% convinced that I was meant to read his story last year. If I had not known of the symptoms Oakley had experienced I would have never thought that Rory was going into anaphylaxis. I get emotional reading Oakley's story again and I can only say that I think of him as an angel. Thank you for sharing. I'm so grateful but so very sorry for your loss.
Blessings, Lyndsy Walters
To Oakley’s Mom,
"I’ve been praying for you and your family since I first heard about Oakley in November. I can’t imagine what you are going through. My youngest nephew, Connor, was born on 6/18/05, his birthday is close to Oakley’s. Connor has blonde hair and blue eyes….and a severe peanut and tree nut allergy. In first grade some bullies at lunch teased him and tried to force him to eat a Reeses Peanut Butter cup. Those bullies knew Connor could die if he ate it, but they didn’t care. My sister immediately pulled both boys from public school and now has both of my nephews in home school/cyber school. We had three major scares with Connor. Twice he was in anaphylactic shock. I witnessed one episode, I’ll never forget it.
When you posted on the two month anniversary of your loss I cried for you and your family. Your strength through your grief gives hope and strength to others.
What you are doing to honor Oakley’s memory is amazing. You have already saved lives by sharing Oakley’s story.
Besides donations, how can I help spread the word of the severity of food allergies? I work in a business park outside of Pittsburgh, PA. Mylan is headquartered there. I called them many times in a professional manner inquiring about the skyrocketing price of their Epi Pens. I’m anaphylactic to certain foods, so I carry an Epi Pen at all times, but my sister told me they are not 100% effective all the time. I’m glad that Mylan is now offering a generic form of the Epi Pen at a lower cost so that families can afford them. My question to Mylan every time I called was “how many children have to die before you make these affordable?” I had met my deductable last year and the cost was still $500.
Please let me know how I can help spread the word, I’ve shared Oakley’s story on Instagram and Facebook….but I want to do more. I’ve shared the Allergy Eats app on social media as well. Connor is so excited for this app as going out to eat causes anxiety for him.
I bought red glitter sneakers because glitter attracts attention and I hope people comment on them when I’m out so that I can raise awareness through word of mouth.
I continue to pray for strength and healing for you and your family."
"My sincerest condolences to you and your family. I can’t imagine what you are going through.
I’m emailing to let you know what an impact Oakley’s story has had on me with regard to my son’s condition. Since reading your story this morning our action plan has completely changed. My son, Sam, like Oakley has a tree nut and peanut allergy. He was first diagnosed when he was 4. He’s now 11. Until last weekend he hadn’t had a reaction since he was 4. We spent Friday night in the ER after his lip began to swell and continued to swell for hours.
He recovered and is doing well but my first line of defense was Benadryl. That’s what we had been told to do at first sign of symptoms and to only use an Epi-pen if he had trouble breathing.
After reading your story this morning our plan now is to give him his Epi-pen immediately.
From the bottom of my heart I wish this hadn’t happened to you and your family but I want to thank you for making us aware of the circumstances of what happened. By doing so, we’ve changed our action plan. By doing so, you may have just saved my son’s life. And for that I am so so grateful.
And because of that we will never forget Oakley…"
Prayers for you and your family.
– Rich Falk
"I just wanted to let you know of yet another life you and Oakley have saved.
This weekend, while at a family party my son came downstairs with hives around his mouth. We had all just eaten and he had been playing upstairs w his cousins. We had our epiPens but no Benedyl, so we put some cortisone on him and kept an eye on him. About 15 minutes later, the hives dissipated and he went back upstairs to play. 10 minutes later he came back down to tell me his throat was hurting and I noticed him wheezing. He began coughing and his nose was pouring.
I immediately grabbed our epiPen and injected him. He got a round of steroids in the ER and is doing much better now
I am writing this because there was a time, where I’d look for any excuse not to give the epi (oh it’s asthma, maybe he’s just getting sick, etc etc). I was constantly second guessing myself or thinking I was over reacting. This time however, there was no hesitation. All I could think of was Oakley’s story and I knew I had to act and fast!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are true heroes."
"Sharing your story…you have already helped so many of us families with kids who have nut allergies. I wouldn’t have given my daughter her epi pen for a reaction like Oakley had prior to hearing your story. Now I will. Last July my 3 year old had hives around her mouth after eating sunbutter and I gave her Benadryl and drove to the ED. It must have been tainted with peanut butter. (We were at her grandmas house) We could have easily been in your shoes. I think of you almost daily. You are saving lives while honoring Oakley. Thank you thank you thank you thank."