Severe gluten reaction forces heartbroken girl, 7, to miss Little Mix concert she'd waited years for
A seven-year-old girl was left heartbroken when she fell serious ill while waiting to see a Little Mix concert she had waited two years for. Imogen Holmes had been due to see her favourite band two live in 2020 but the gig was delayed because of the pandemic.
Imogen fell ill after visiting Pizza Express alongside mum Louise, cousin Gabby and auntie Teresa, and was excited for their first family gathering together since her nanna lost her battle to cancer. However, just moments after arriving, she grabbed her mum's arm and became violently sick before being rushed home after suffering a severe gluten reaction.
The Manchester Evening News reported that Imogen, who has coeliac disease and mustn't eat any gluten had visited the restaurant before the concert. It was within an hour that the night took a drastic turn for the worst.
What followed was an ordeal that lasted two gruelling hours, with Imogen continuing to projectile vomit in the bathrooms at the arena before passing out from exhaustion at the hotel. They had missed the entire concert, leaving little Imogen 'heartbroken'.
Distraught mum Louise, 39, who lives in Rossendale with her family said: "Minutes before the group came onstage Imogen grabbed my arm and told me she was going to be sick. I knew instantly she had been given food containing Gluten.
"Within an hour of consuming the food Imogen became violently sick. We were stuck in the arena toilets unable to leave as she could not stop being sick. I managed to get my sister to go to the St. John Ambulance staff who gave us a sick back so we could get her back to the hotel.
"On coming out of the arena we had to stop on the stairs while she was being sick again. A member of staff came over and helped me get Imogen into a black cab back to the hotel. Once we got back to the hotel she just collapsed in exhaustion."
Vigilant mum Louise says she informed the restaurant of her daughter's allergy at the point of booking and upon arrival at the restaurant, something Pizza Express say they are now investigating. Her daughter Imogen needs to carry a packed lunch with her wherever she goes due to the difficulties of finding gluten-free meals and has now been left covered in hives following the ordeal.
She added: "We had planned the girls day, including staying in a hotel for the night after the concert to make it extra special for them. We unfortunately lost my mum during Covid and this was the first thing we were doing together as a close family without her.
"We are all still in shock over the events that took place on Saturday, luckily Imogen is starting to recover from the extreme fatigue she is suffering due to the autoimmune response her body has had to fight."
Mum Louise shared the events to her Instagram page, which quickly amassed hundreds of likes, with Little Mix fans commenting messages of support and tagging the band to catch their attention after Imogen missed the entire concert. Since then, they have been contacted by the band's management offering them free tickets to their final performance at London's O2.
Following the events, Louise said: "It is so important to raise awareness - it should be a human right to be able to eat without fear. It has always been a challenge for us, we can't just go into a restaurant last minute, and that whole experience has been taken away from us because of a medical necessity.
"It's important to make people aware how easily and quickly everything can go wrong. Being able to eat out somewhere is still such a risk, we can't just pop in somewhere off the cuff, we have to call first and make sure they can accommodate my daughter's needs.
"Imogen was devastated and heartbroken to miss the concert, we wanted to make it as memorable for her and her cousin as possible. When she heard that we had been given tickets to see them in London, she was screaming and just couldn't believe it."
Although it cannot yet be proven that Imogen's reaction came from dining at Pizza Express, the restaurant chain have confirmed they are investigating the matter. A spokesperson said: "I can confirm that this case, since the 7th is being looked into in detail in line with the company’s health and safety procedures.
"The company take matters such as this very seriously and have strict investigation protocols to deal with such incidents."