WOLCOTT -- David Joseph Boutot was trying to build muscles. Instead the 17-year-old died Thursday morning from an apparent allergic reaction to a protein shake.
Boutot, whose friends called him DJ, suffered from dairy allergies all his life. That's why both he and his mother were careful to read the ingredients on the protein shake he mixed and drank Tuesday afternoon, said his maternal uncle, Joseph Forte Jr. of Waterbury.
Neither, though, knew that the ingredient whey was a dairy product, the watery substance that separates from curds in dairy products such as cottage cheese.
Almost instantly, Boutot's throat swelled and his lungs collapsed, Forte said.
"Within half an hour, he was in dire straits," Forte said.
Boutot, son of David and Cherie Boutot, was rushed from the family home at 1623 Wolcott Road to Bristol Hospital. He was later taken to St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, where he was pronounced dead at 7:35 a.m. Thursday.
Besides his parents, he leaves a 14-year-old sister, Brittany.
Doctors haven't confirmed the cause of death, but family members believe it was from an allergic reaction because it happened so soon after drinking the shake and because initial symptoms were similar to other reactions Boutot had suffered throughout his life.
"His asthma and allergies put him in the hospital many, many, many times before," Forte said.
Boutot's organs are being donated, Forte said.
"His parents decided to let their son live on in others. That's the way DJ would want it," Forte said. "That's the type of kid he is. He was always looking for everybody else."
Classmates at Wolcott High School have been told Boutot fell seriously ill, but most won't learn of his death until today, said Assistant Principal Thomas Buzzelli. Grief counselors will be available at school today.
"It's been a difficult couple of days at school. It's been a shocker to everybody," Buzzelli said.
"He was a very likeable young man. He had a beautiful disposition," Buzzelli said. "He had a lot of friends. Some of them, I understand, were at the hospital by his side round-the-clock since Tuesday."
Boutot wasn't involved in many school activities, but spent his free time skateboarding, riding dirt bikes, fishing and snowboarding. He recently got his driver's license and was saving to buy his first car.
More recently, he took up weight lifting. He was getting buff and thought protein shakes would help build muscle faster, his uncle said.
"I've taken it many times myself. It's on any store shelf you go to. It's a supplement that helps muscles to grow," Forte said. "There are no drugs involved in it at all or anything like that. It's just protein."
Tuesday was the first time Boutot used the powdered protein shake. It was unclear where he bought it.
Forte said manufacturers should label products that might induce allergic reactions.
"If there's anything at all that could cause a sickness or a reaction in anybody that has allergies, there should be a warning label," he said. "Not too many people know what whey is. If there was any mention of milk on that bottle, I know this kid would have been alive and well today."
Boutot's allergies induced such severe reactions that he knew not to even touch or smell dairy products, Forte said.
"All his life he suffered from dairy allergies. DJ never knew what a piece of cake tasted like. He never knew what ice cream was. He never tasted pizza, all the things we take for granted."
Classmates will likely remember Boutot as a fun-loving prankster who loved outdoor sports.
"He was notorious for ruining a new pair of sneakers within days because of the way he was with dirt bikes and skateboarding," Forte said. "If he took a major fall, he would go home, get patched up and go do the same thing again."
His body was lean and tough, but his heart was soft, his uncle said.
"With every phone call to his mother, to his father, to his grandparents, at the end there was an 'I love you.' Every time," Forte said.
"He respected his mother and father like anything. If all the kids had the respect and love this kid had for his parents and sister we wouldn't have half the problems in this world," he said. "This is a really hard tragedy. This kid, he's my nephew, but he was like a son to me."
i thought most people (even "non protein powder drinkers") knew whey was dairy. even if that is not the case....you'd think someone who suffers from a life threatening allergy would definitely be up on what is and is not dairy. (doesn't make it any less sad but i'm still amazed neither he or his mother knew whey = dairy)
"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion." -- 14th Dalai Lama