Their heads were bowed in wordless sorrow and as the flight from Nice to Heathrow started, they sobbed silently.
Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse had endured the unthinkable: their bright, fearless, funny daughter – their beloved 15-year-old Natasha – had died after suffering a catastrophic allergic reaction to a bag of Pret a Manger on the flight out.
Now she was lying in a box in the hold beneath them and the bitter fear of her parents consumed them.
In the line behind them, fellow passenger Sarah, Duchess of York, looked back from a business trip with growing concern. & # 39; I could see they weren't alone: it was another scale of misery & she said today. & # 39; They were in great pain. It was spooky. I considered: should I leave them alone, or could I do something? & # 39;
Natasha Ednan-Laperouse (photo), 15, died three years ago after having had a reaction and was startled when she unknowingly ate sesame seeds she was allergic to
Sarah, Duchess of York, with Natasha & # 39; s parents, Tanya and Nadim Ednan-Laperouse. The duchess has become a friend and supporter of the surviving relatives. She sat in line behind them as they flew from Nice to Heathrow with their daughter's coffin in the hold
& # 39; At that time, & # 39; Tanya remembers, & a hand came through the space between the seats and took mine. We were in a terrible place, just crying, in the pit of despair. I had my head down. I just wanted to hide, disappear, because I didn't want other people to feel uncomfortable. Then the hand grabbed mine. & # 39;
She smiles at the duchess and remembers: & You leaned forward and at that moment I did not realize who you were. I just saw your beautiful red hair. And you said, "I'm so sorry. Can I do something to help you? & # 39; And immediately I recognized you. You were so kind. & # 39;
Since that gloomy day in July 2016, the duchess became friends with Tanya and Nadim. & # 39; Dear friends – they are family of honor & # 39 ;, says Sarah, who is here to support the couple during their first long interview, exclusive this week.
She says she has a picture of Natasha that she talks about every day. & # 39; I say, "Yes, I am going to send a letter to your father and mother today." & # 39; And she does, sometimes with small gifts to cheer them up.
The Duchess attended Natasha's funeral, and Nadim and Tanya attended the wedding of Princess Eugenie, Sarah & # 39; s daughter last October.
Talking about the flight today, Tanya smiles at the duchess and remembers: & # 39; You leaned forward and at that moment I didn't realize who you were. I just saw your beautiful red hair. And you said, "I'm so sorry. Can I do something to help you? & # 39; And immediately I recognized you. You were so kind & # 39;
Today, as she does every day, Tanya wears a memento of their first encounter: a gold and diamond bracelet that Sarah took from her wrist and gave her on the plane. & # 39; You can draw my strength from this, & # 39; Sarah told Tanya through her own tears.
& # 39; And I've always worn it since then. Even in the shower & # 39 ;, Tanya smiles.
Today they meet me to share a triumph. This week, Natasha's law entered into force, making it mandatory for food distributors to list all ingredients on all pre-packaged foods such as sandwiches and salads.
Was such a law in force the day three years ago when Natasha – bursting with excitement about a vacation in France where she was about to enjoy with her best friend – ate a baguette of artichoke, olives and tapenades that was purchased at Heathrow Airport, she would still be alive. It's as simple as that.
The Duchess attended Natasha's funeral and Nadim and Tanya attended the wedding of Princess Eugenie, Sarah & # 39; s daughter last October
Natasha, who was fatally allergic to sesame seeds, was diligent about reading food ingredient labels. But there was nothing on the baguette she had bought at the airport. The omission of the sandwich shop in the UK, which has around 600 stores worldwide and last year had a turnover of more than £ 1 billion, caused her death.
Because it prepares food in its buildings on the High Street, Pret has used a loophole to help small retailers who exempt from giving up the ingredients on food packages.
& # 39; But it is now leading the way in reforms & # 39 ;, says Nadim.
Thanks to ruthless campaigns by Natasha's parents – supported by the Duchess of York – the government has recognized the anomaly.
Environmental Secretary Michael Gove announced a major tightening of the food labeling regulations that will come into force in 2021 this week.
Nadim and Tanya also launched the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation (NARF) this week in memory of their daughter. Its ambitious mission is to prevent and cure food allergies, which represent 4,500 hospital admissions annually in the UK, while also focusing on legislation, education, awareness and research.
They welcomed the change in the labeling law as a & # 39; appropriate legacy & # 39; for Natasha, who would save other families from suffering from their & # 39; permanent pain & # 39 ;.
& # 39; Our daughter's story resonated with the government & # 39 ;, says Nadim. & # 39; We met Michael Gove and he promised to do something. He honored that and we are very grateful. This enormous change in legislation has been implemented in record time.
& # 39; Hundreds of millions of packages of food will be affected and they must be scientifically labeled and all 14 of the most commonly recognized allergens listed.
When we meet in a hotel in London, the Duchess is bursting with pride & # 39; on the success of her friends with Natasha's law. As the mother of two daughters, she is, she says, & # 39; eternally grateful & # 39; for their good health and she can only imagine the grief that her friends endure.
She is the patron of NARF and takes her role seriously by attending meetings with scientists whose research into immunotherapy helps to treat and alleviate allergic symptoms.
There are huge hugs when Sarah, who has Tigger-like energy, walks into the room in an emerald green dress combined with black pumps.
Tanya remembers their first conversation on the London plane: & We were thinking about that terrible journey with Natasha's body in the hold and the Duchess gave us the opportunity to talk about our daughter. & # 39;
& # 39; You were interested, & # 39; Tanya now tells Sarah. & # 39; And I wanted to tell you what had happened. You asked us all the right questions about Natasha: "What did she like? What did she like?"
A picture emerged of a teenager on the verge of a life full of promise, passionate about social justice – she hoped to become a human rights lawyer – sporty, energetic and fun.
& # 39; She wanted to learn to fly & # 39 ;, her father remembers. & # 39; She had already read the pilot's handbook I had given her and said: & # 39; Dad, instead of a party, do you think I could have one or two flying lessons for my 16th birthday? & # 39; She was a good girl. She would whiz through London on the back of my moped. & # 39;
Sarah says she is starting flying lessons again in honor of Natasha. She remembers the day of Natasha & # 39; s funeral, November 5, 2016. She says: & I'm pretty shy and I thought, "Should I go?"
& # 39; But we invited you! & # 39 ;, Tanya says.
& # 39; I remember arriving early and I thought I could hide behind a bush or move quietly backwards so that I wouldn't get in the way, & # 39; Sarah tells me. & # 39; But they were so understanding and kind.
& # 39; And it was the most incredible service, and the bit that got me was the immense love and friendship that seemed from everyone. & # 39;
Tanya and Nadim are heroically worthy in their grief. They are the kind of people who put others at ease: quietly spoken, articulated, kind and courteous in their gratitude when you offer condolences.
They run a successful toy company – Wow Toys – and live in Fulham, West London, along with their son Alex, 15. It was a blessed life until the tragedy that nearly broke them all. They remember how they had hardly left home to socialize since Natasha's death when last year's invitation for the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank arrived.
& # 39; We were on the sidewalk outside of St George & # 39; s Chapel with Eugenie & # 39; s friends and bridesmaids. It was a great experience, & says Nadim. The Duchess reveals that her late father, Major Ronald Ferguson, lost his brother John when he was a child to a food allergy in the 1930s.
"Everyone always said he died after eating a bad crab sandwich," she says. & # 39; At that time nothing was known about allergies, but I am sure it was. And I never eat shellfish because of Uncle John's death. & # 39;
Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, with their son Alex, outside the Coroners Court in West London, after the conclusion of the investigation into the death of Natasha, from Fulham, West London. She died after falling ill on a flight from London to Nice after eating a Pret A Manger sandwich at Heathrow Airport
Natasha, Tashie for friends and family, was very allergic to seeds, nuts, dairy products, eggs and bananas. She had lived with her condition since she was three months old and she and her parents were extremely vigilant. They knew they had to be.
The day she became fatally ill had begun with so much hope and promise. She and her best friend Betania went with Nadim on a four-day trip to Nice, on the French Riviera, to stay in the flat of a flat Nadim. Tanya meanwhile stayed at home with Alex, then 13, who had invited a friend to visit.
& # 39; We have been on holiday to Nice for years. It was a home from home and we were going to explore the beaches of Monaco and kayaking in the Ardèche, & Nadim recalls. & # 39; This time Bethany was coming. & # 39;
& # 39; And Tashie had it all planned & # 39 ;, Tanya continues. & # 39; She knew exactly where they were going and everything was attached to a happy childhood memory. & # 39;
The flight was early in the morning and Tanya had brought her husband and the girls to Heathrow. & # 39; I embraced Tashie, then Nadim and Bethany, and said, "Have a great time." It was such a short goodbye and they were so excited. . . & # 39; Her voice disappears.
With a half-hour reserve for their flight – and skipping breakfast – the girls were hungry.
& # 39; So we went to Pret to grab something to eat & # 39 ;, Nadim recalls. & # 39; Natasha and I watched a sandwich and the label said it contained artichokes, olives, and peppers. She loved all those foods – and it was all good for her to eat, so we bought it. & # 39;
However, the sandwich shop should have had signs that warned of potential allergens and would guide customers to staff if they needed advice. Nadim and Tanya then learned that these signs were removed during a store repair and – with catastrophic consequences for Natasha – were never replaced.
That's why they had no idea that the bread in the baguette was baked with sesame seeds mixed in the dough, & and, like teenagers, the girls eaten their food before we got to the gate & Nadim says.
The first signs that everything was not right began when Natasha & # 39; s throat started to itch, a known problem for people with allergies, and she took a pair of Piriton, which she always used with her Epipens (automatic injection devices) to relieve the symptoms.
& # 39; We boarded the plane and the girls listened to music, shared headphones, and giggled & # 39 ;, says Nadim. It would be his last happy image of his daughter. & # 39; Then Tashie said she felt worse. She showed me her diaphragm and it was covered with raised red stripes, such as lashes. I had never seen anything like this in my life and it was a real shock.
& # 39; She said she wanted her Epipen and for the first time ever she asked if I should give her an injection. I knew exactly what to do. When I got the pen out, Natasha bent over and gasped.
& # 39; But I thought the Epipen would do it, that it would turn it. I hit it in her thigh and checked if it had worked well. & # 39;
Such pens contain epinephrine, which opens the airways in the lungs and is used to treat anaphylaxis. But it quickly became clear that Natasha did not respond. & # 39; She still said: & # 39; I can't breathe, Dad. & # 39;
& # 39; I grabbed her second Epipen and followed the same routine, but she still said: & # 39; This is not working, Dad. I can not breathe. Help! "And there was real fear in her face. She dropped forward. I held her shoulders and she lost consciousness.
& # 39; I grabbed the steward and said, "Quick, quick, get the oxygen mask." I thought if we could get air in her lungs, she wouldn't become unconscious. I just couldn't believe it happened. I tried to be calm. I said, "Call for a doctor," and this very young man, who had just graduated the previous day, came forward. & # 39;
The resulting attempts to revive Natasha were heroic, but unfortunately unsuccessful. & # 39; The doctor injected her with adrenaline from the medical bag of the plane, but she was limp and her face swelled. He did mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, and she still had a pulse, but it was very weak.
& # 39; I was totally unbelieving. In 20 minutes my daughter died of multiple cardiac arrests. When the plane landed, the ambulance brothers waited.
& # 39; They came aboard immediately and I told them in French what had happened.
& # 39; By that time, Tashie was completely unconscious and there was a hurry to find a defibrillator. They kept making compressions, so powerful that all her ribs were broken. I kept saying to her, "Come on, fight, Tashie, fight," and Bethany sat in her chair and prayed aloud for her boyfriend to live. & # 39;
Natasha was rushed to the Nice hospital and when she was stretched, Nadim Tanya called: & You must come quickly. Something bad has happened to Natasha, & he said.
At home in London, Tanya recorded the news with & # 39; total disbelief & # 39 ;. When she sent Alex to her mother, she booked the only flight available that day from Nice, from Stansted.
In the hospital, Nadim clung to a glimmer of hope. & # 39; I was called into a small white room where a doctor told me that Natasha had contracted catastrophic organ failure.
& # 39; I said, "What does that mean?" And he said she had less than 5 percent chance of living. I just broke. You go to this strange, surreal mode where everything seems weird muted. It is like a coma of the mind.
& # 39; By then, Natasha was looking deformed. She was cold. Bethany was with her to play Justin Bieber against her because Tashie loved him. I just felt despair. "Natasha was moved to a private room and Nadim put his phone to her ear so that Tanya, waiting for her now delayed flight, could say goodbye to her last. & # 39; And I said," Tashie, I love your darling so much and I will be with you very soon. "& # 39;
Tanya did not make it on time to see her daughter before she died.
& # 39; When she was gone, I could only sob. I cut locks of her hair to hold and then they brought her to the morgue, & # 39; says Nadim.
The next day, Tanya and Nadim made their gloomy trip to the mortuary. & # 39; I had to see her, but her soul was gone. I didn't feel like she was there, & # 39; Tanya says.
And now the summers of Nice are soured by sorrow. & # 39; I can no longer find pleasure in the heat or the scents of the pines and eucalyptus. Everything takes me back to death, & says Nadim. Today, they are supported by their Christian faith, by their campaign, and by the foundation that strives to help others in Natasha's name. They are brave, kind, wonderful people and my heart breaks for them.
At home they still pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Natasha & # 39; s vacation bag remains unpacked, her school uniform is still hanging in her closet, her beloved cockapoo Buddy is still waiting in vain for her return.
& # 39; And we still take turns to sleep in Tashie's bed, & # 39; Tanya says, her face smeared with tears.
In their living room, Natasha's trainers stay by the mirror, as if they have just been abandoned by her. Sometimes Nadim puts his shoes on both sides of the shoes in a symbolic protective gesture.
& # 39; She would be really proud of all of us & # 39 ;, Tanya says, looking at her husband. & # 39; And she knows how much you suffer, because even though you've tried everything, you can't save her. & # 39;
Go to narf.org.uk/donate to support the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation
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