Doctors call her a miracle, and now the Atwater girl who survived a major allergic reaction at a church party is speaking out in the hopes of raising awareness about food allergies for holiday hosts.
Noelle Dilley just turned 11, and though her mother says the family has always known she has a serious peanut allergy, they never thought it could be life-threatening. They've always been careful, but now the family is urging others to believe that it's not possible to be too careful.
"My mom calls me a walking, talking testimony of the Lord," Dilley said.
Doctors have dubbed her case a true miracle of survival, because the girl spent 21 days in a coma at Children's Hospital after suffering a severe reaction to peanut butter.
The family was at a church party when Dilley asked her mother if she could have what looked like a regular chocolate cupcake.
"She had a lick of her cupcake -- the frosting," Renae Dilley recalled. "Before we even got back to the table to sit down, she was crying -- ears hurt, stomach burning."
Normally, Renae Dilley carries an Epipen in her purse -- but had recently switched and forgot to grab the medicine. So, they rushed Noelle to the hospital, but her heart and breathing soon stopped. Doctors say she was essentially dead for four minutes, and required a respiratory bypass to survive.
Looking back, Renae Dilley aid she believes there is a reason her daughter is still alive.
"I think her purpose is to let people know how serious it can be," she said.
The holiday season is the perfect time to send that message to those with and without allergies.
"If you are going to throw a party, definitely let people know, 'This is what's in it,' and have a table set to the side -- this is strictly peanuts or a peanut-free table," Renae Dilley recommended. "If you do not know what's in the food, you do not eat it."
Since many people travel during the holidays, doctors also recommend having a plan if you'll be in a strange area. Knowing where the nearest hospital is and carrying medication with you can help save a life.
"The lesson we learned is if you do not know what's in the food you do not eat it."