Man paralysed by garden slug dies after eight years

Henrietta Brewer
November 7, 2018

Sam Ballard, then 19, and some friends were having a wine tasting night in a home on Sydney's upper north shore.

'I hope the friends that were with him when he swallowed the slug, especially the one who dared him, ' one tribute read. Jimmy Galvin, one of his best friends, regrets not stopping Sam from eating the slug at the party.

"The conversation came up, should I eat it? Bang. That's how it happened". He complained of serious pain in his legs and told him mum in the emergency room that he was anxious it might be the result of what he'd eaten.

As his health deteriorated, the doctors found out that the slug probably harboured a parasite called lungworm, which nests itself in the heart of the host, causing severe health problems.

The health agency noted most people make a full recovery, but the parasite can be lethal. When he woke up 420 days later he'd acquired a brain injury. He was left quadriplegic and suffered seizures.

His close friends often visited him, even if it was a "shock" to see their mate struggling.

He said: "When I walked in, he was very, very gaunt, and there were cables everywhere".

Now, eight years on, Sam passed away at the age of 28 surrounded by his friends and family last week. Wilkinson writes, "Sam's lovely angel of a mum Katie has been right by Sam's side as his chief carer, never wavering in her love; feeding him, wheeling him, driving him, getting him bathed and toileted, organising doctor and hospital visits, always trying to find the lighter moments so she could see her boy smile again, waking at every sound in the night, always making sure Sam's friends felt welcomed in his new, limited world". His last words to his mother were, "I love you", according to the Australian news show.

Back in 2010, a young Australian man was having a few drinks with friends in a backyard and made a decision to eat a garden slug on a dare, only for the creature to end up paralyzing and killing him eight years later.

Mr Ballard passed away in the morning 'surrounded by 20 of those he most loved in the world, ' his mother, Katie Ballard, said.

Sam's mum Katie had previously told Australian media about the incredible physical, emotional, and financial toll Sam's illness had taken on the family.

She later said of the accident: 'It's devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It's huge. The impact is huge, ' she said.

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