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Schmidt’s Death Due to Allergic Reaction

By Jorge Casuso

December 20 -- When former School Superintendent Dr. Neil Schmidt died suddenly last Wednesday, he was doing what he loved most -- tending to the avocado orchard flanking his Fillmore home, according to his family.

Schmidt, who was allergic to bee stings, went into anaphylactic shock after being stung and died of a heart attack around mid-day.

It has not been reported whether Schmidt had the small kit he always carried with him in case he developed signs of an anaphylactic reaction, according to friends.

He was unable to summon help in time and died after being rushed to the hospital.

"Neil died doing what he loved most -- working in his avocado orchard," his wife Julie wrote in an email to the district.

Known as a private person who kept personal issues to himself, Schmidt –- who served as superintendent from 1992 to 2001 –- surprised staff several years ago when he revealed he was fighting prostrate cancer, former colleagues recalled.

“He got up in front of the employees of the district and talked about it,” said Barbara Inatsugu, the district’s administrative secretary for most of Schmidt’s tenure as superintendent.

“He had such a strong belief system that he shared it and encouraged them to go to the doctor,” she said. “He would want people to know and beware,” she said of Schmidt’s fatal allergy.

The venom from a bee or wasp sting causes little more than local pain, swelling and redness for most people and the reaction is usually gone in several hours, medical experts said.

However, those allergic to elements in the venom can have more severe reactions, ranging from extended swelling to anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal, experts said.

Those allergic to bee stings should carry the self-injectable antidote epinephrine, better known as adrenaline, which is sold in prescription kits, experts said.

Injected into the front of the thigh or a muscle, the antidote constricts the blood vessels before more damage can be done. In cases where the epinephrine is not enough, intravenous fluids or other treatments are needed.

After his retirement in June 2001, Schmidt spent long hours in the avocado orchard of his Fillmore home, which he had bought back after selling it to move to the Los Angeles area.

Schmidt will be cremated and a celebration of his life will take place at the family’s home in Fillmore, California in mid January, according to his family.

In lieu of flowers, the family is discussing how to further Schmidt's passion for youth, the family said.

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