Kelly Dunfield, creator of Be Ready Health Care. (Photograph by Denis Duquette)

Topics: December 2023, Ethical Living | Health

This nurse is on a mission to make allergy injectors more accessible across North America

Kelly Dunfield's emergency kits have saved many people from fatal allergic reactions


Kelly Dunfield wants to make epinephrine auto-injectors (EAI) accessible across North America. Inspired by a heartbreaking story of an allergic reaction turned fatal, the long-time nurse practitioner launched a family-led pilot project in 2014 distributing EAI cabinets to public sites in Sussex, N.B. After initial success, she created Be Ready Health Care the following year, expanding her commitment to community health far beyond the Maritimes. Almost a decade later, Dunfield’s project has saved many lives.


I was at a conference listening to an allergist speak about a young lady who had unfortunately died of a severe allergy. And I was sitting there thinking, “We would have never dreamt that people would be able to use automated external defibrillators in places like airports and shopping centres. Why aren’t we doing this with epinephrine for severe allergies?” Every resource I read said it should be available as a first-line treatment, but nowhere could I find that it was actually being done.


Some people know they have allergies but don’t always carry their injectors with them. And although we recommend people carry two injectors if they know they have an allergy, most only carry one. As a result, if someone’s having a severe anaphylactic emergency and needs an epi, they may often need a second dose in five to 15 minutes. The third example is the scariest: a person doesn’t know they have an allergy, and they suddenly develop one. So of course, they would never even dream of carrying an epi with them.

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Most people just don’t know how important it is to have this, and I wish that our governments would have a say somehow. The way we’re housing epinephrine kits — whether they’re in your purse or in your pocket, where they’re out of reach — is not good. Making sure they are where they should be is the thing that I would encourage everybody to have a look at and think about. If we have the kits centrally located, visible and accessible at all times, everybody learns where they are, like fire extinguishers.

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I get calls practically every day. We have the cabinets all across Canada at colleges, universities and restaurants. We have them with people who run their own daycares out of their homes. I always say, “Wherever there are insects, medications and food, there should be an epinephrine kit.” I want to get people to think about it more positively. Wouldn’t you rather have a cabinet than not? It would be the biggest reward of all, really — my heart would just swell if I could see cabinets everywhere I go.


Mark Ramzy was an intern with Broadview this summer. Currently a reporter for the Toronto Star, he lives in Ottawa.

This article first appeared in Broadview’s December 2023 issue with the title “Kelly Dunfield: Nurse.”

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