Pollen Blamed for Deadly Asthma Attack, Killing Teen Celebrating End of Exams

May 14, 2019 Updated: May 14, 2019

A British high school student who was celebrating the end of exams died after suffering a fatal asthma attack on June 17, 2017.

Joe Dale, 16 at the time, had returned to his friend’s house in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, a day after finishing his end of school exam and buying a prom suit with his mother.

He spent some time in the park that day, which had an abnormally high pollen count, experienced an asthma attack and lost consciousness, even though he was administered an inhaler, Fox News reported.

An ambulance transported Dale to the Barnsley Hospital emergency room but he never regained consciousness. He spent six days in intensive care before his parents received the bad news from hospital staff there was nothing else they could do for him.

The family finally made the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support system the day of his school prom, on June 23, 2017. His organs ended up being donated to save three people including a teenager and a father.

“We knew he would have wanted that, he was such a kind and thoughtful person,” mother Helena told the Daily Record. “It does help to know his death wasn’t for nothing.”

Doctors suggest Dale died from a severe asthmatic reaction to pollen, which can trigger allergic asthma that inflames and swells the passage in the airways of the lungs and cause coughing, wheezing, and other types of asthma symptoms.

The swelling is blamed for Joe’s bronchial tubes narrowing and preventing the teen from being able to breathe properly.

His mother said Dale used his brown inhaler each morning and evening and also kept a blue inhaler on him throughout the day in case of an emergency. She added that moments before he collapsed at about 7:30 p.m., he got up from his seat and puffed on his blue inhaler before falling to the floor unconscious.

“I never believed Joe would die, I thought he’d be okay,” Helena said.

‘Complete and Utter Shock’

Dale’s family members said his severe reaction to pollen caught them by surprise as he was diagnosed with asthma when he was aged 5 and had only suffered one asthma attack four years prior.

Dale’s parents only recently made the difficult decision to speak up about his death to help others become more aware of the potential dangers of what can trigger a fatal asthma attack.

“If I can prevent another family from going through what we’ve experienced, then I have to do that,” Helena said. “I hope I can raise awareness about just how dangerous asthma can be. Most people don’t think of it as a killer but it is, I don’t think most people know.”

The mother described the six days she spent in hospital as a “complete and utter shock.”

“It’s impossible to put into words what it’s like to lose a child like this, it’s absolutely heart-wrenching,” she said. “I have had to bury the life I had with Joe and start a new one, a completely different one.”

She said Dale was very proud to finish his studies.

“I spent the evening with Joe the day before he died and he was really happy about finishing his GCSEs and looking forward to the summer,” she told the Record. “It was a red hot day, one of the hottest of the year, but we had no idea what kind of effect that would have on his asthma.”

Helena will remember Dale as a “fit and active” boy who played football up to four times a week and often went go-kart racing with his father Jon, 48.

When Dale’s GCSE results came in the family discovered he had achieved high marks in all of his subjects including some A grades.

He was due to attend Penistone Grammar School a few weeks later with plans to attend university after that.

Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice provided support to the family members including sister Abbie, 25, and brother Matt, 14. The service allows families to stay with their children after they die in specialist suites to help them come to terms with the tragedy.

“It doesn’t seem real that he’s gone, I don’t think it ever will,” Abbie said. “I miss my little brother so much but I feel thankful for the amazing 16 years I had growing up with him.”

“I hope our story can raise enough awareness to prevent another family from experiencing the heartache that will remain with us everyday,” she added.