More than 32 million Americans live with severe food allergies, and researchers say that number is on the rise. For many people, it can be deadly, including Matthew Briden, 28, of Mount Washington. He died in 2022 after going into anaphylactic shock.
This summer, his family marked one year since his death.
In his 28 years of life, Matthew was known as a helper.
“He was always the first one to volunteer to move people,” said Kathy Briden, his mother. “Just always the first one to show up.”
Diagnosed with a severe peanut allergy at age two, Matthew learned at an early age that his life would be a little different than most kids. Growing up in the North Hills, he carried EpiPens with him everywhere he went, even eventually to the University of Massachusetts.
“After they go to college, you think ‘Oh wow, we have this.’ If they can survive a food allergy, this is, you know, we’re good,’” Kathy said.
He eventually moved back home to the Steel City, started his own company, and lived life to the fullest as a Pittsburgh sports fan. But on June 30, 2022 – an emergency room visit took a turn for the worse, unlike others before.
“Matthew did not think he was going to die that night,” Kathy said.
Matthew went into anaphylactic shock, taking his last breath at the hospital hours after eating something while on a first date. His family says Matthew immediately knew something was wrong and left the restaurant after giving himself an EpiPen.
“He went home, got violently ill, fell asleep, woke up, gave himself another EpiPen,” Kathy said.
It was only then that Matthew decided to go to the hospital, a sequence of events that his mother says is still painful to process.
“When we asked the doctor, ‘If he went right to the ER, would he still be alive?’ They said, ‘It’s very probable because if he walked in, they would have seen the symptoms.’”
That’s one of the messages Briden continues to share, one year after burying her son, working with Food Allergy Research and Education – or F.A.R.E. – to help spread awareness. She also stresses the importance of carrying two EpiPens while keeping in mind that those alone might not be enough.
“The EpiPen is a bridge, and often it’s not used as a bridge. People say, ‘I gave myself an EpiPen, I’m going to be okay.’ Sometimes, you are okay. But we know that every reaction is different,” Kathy said.
While she takes comfort in knowing that Matthew is continuing to help others, Kathy wants families affected by food allergies to remember one more thing.
“I would tell parents…it doesn’t matter how old your kid is…continue partnering with them, even though you think they have it,” Kathy said.
Download the FREE WPXI News app for breaking news alerts.
©2023 Cox Media Group