AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Instead of enjoying the holidays with their son -- all they have are memories. Local 4 is hearing from the parents of 19-year-old Chandler Swink who have a message for everyone.
The Oakland University student died the night before Thanksgiving after suffering a severe allergic reaction to peanuts.
The many people who loved Swink gathered at Oakland University. His mother, Nancy Swink, and father, Bill Swink, want to do more than share good memories. They want to convince more people to take peanut allergies seriously.
"Diagnosed at 2 (years old), we've had a lot of people who believed us, a lot of people who didn't believe us," said Nancy Swink.
Chandler Swink's condition required special precautions during his K-12 years. His schools banned peanut products. His mom and dad remember the complaints from other parents.
"'Why should we have to change for one student?' 'Why can't they home school him?'" said Nancy Swink.
"They called him 'peanut boy,' 'peanut kid,'" said Bill Swink.
Chandler Swink was studying at Oakland for a career in medicine. On Nov. 18 while in a friend's apartment, he was accidentally exposed to peanut butter cookies.
"He injected himself with his EpiPen, drove to St. Johns Pontiac from here," said Nancy Swink.
Chandler Swink collapsed outside the hospital and died seven days later. He was 19.
"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," said Bill Swink. "He would do anything for anybody."
After Chandler Swink's death, a woman apologized to Nancy Swink for her skepticism about her son's condition when he was at Avondale High School.
"'I'm ashamed to say I was one of the naysayers,'" Nancy Swink read the woman's message. "I believe she's saying get the word out. Don't let them be labeled."
The Swinks will fight not only for more awareness of food allergies, but for regulatory changes affecting food production.
"I can tell you as a mother I would not change one day with my son," Nancy Swink said.