The scariest experience of Luca Ingrassia's young life was probably in February, when he nearly died aboard an American Airlines flight.

The second scariest experience? 

I'm betting it was this week, when the 10-year-old flew to Washington D.C. to testify before Congress and talk with senators and representatives. It's all in an effort to change the law to require airlines to carry epinephrine auto injectors, often known as EpiPens, and make it less likely anyone else will go through what he went through as a passenger.

You might recall this story. Ingrassia was on a flight back to the U.S. from Aruba with his mom and three siblings, when he ate a single cashew and quickly went into anaphylactic shock.

A physician's assistant came to his aid, and since there were no EpiPens in the airplane's medical kit, flight attendants had to ask over the P.A. for any other passengers who might have brought one aboard and be wiling to volunteer it.

Fortunately, two passengers came forward, and Ingrassia was treated. Without them, his condition might have been fatal, according to the PA who treated him. 

Luca's mom, Francine Ingrassia, said she'd been shocked to learn that while airlines carry Epinephrine, federal law didn't require them to carry EpiPens. She started a petition to change the law, which garnered more than 100,000 signatures. 

Its success brought them to the attention of an advocacy group called Allergy and Asthma Network, which invited them to Washington to speak about their experience to lawmakers and staff.

By all accounts, Luca's performance on the Hill--he wrote a speech and delivered it seven times during the course of the one-day outreach event, in one-on-one meetings with several senators and members of congress, and at a pair of events with between 100 and 150 people in the audience--became the main draw.

"I would definitely not be here if there were no Epipens on board," Luca said in the speech. "If a 10-year-old knows the risks, all airlines should."

The president and CEO of Allergy and Asthma Network, Tonya Winders, told me her organization believes they could be close to getting a change in the law to require airlines to carry Epipens in their onboard medical kits.

Their strategy has been to include the rule within the reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration. Winders said she'd hopeful it will happen this summer.

"Nobody is opposing it, and we are extremely optimistic," she said, adding that one of the cosponsors of the bill told her that "in a time when very things are getting through Congress, we think this is going to happen."

Luca Ingrassia, a fourth grader at Stratford School in Garden City, N.Y., said the whole experience of going to Washington and sharing his story was "amazing," Luca told me, adding: "I think they agree with us [be]cause they want everyone to feel safe. I think they will make it a law."

It's important to point out that the issue isn't particular to American Airlines, his mother said, and pointed out that the flight crew did a great job given that their airplane didn't have the equipment the needed. 

Although, when I asked what airline they flew to Washington from New York this week, she laughed.

"Actually, we took Delta," she said. "They didn't serve any nuts at all." 

Published on: May 11, 2018
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