A young Australian man left paralyzed from swallowing a garden slug on a dare has died after eight years.
Sam Ballard was just 19 years old and a star rugby player when he pulled the silly stunt in 2010 while drinking with pals, news.com.au reported.
“We were sitting over here having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grown up and a slug came crawling across here,” recalled Ballard’s pal Jimmy Galvin of the 2010 incident. “The conversation came up, you know. ‘Should I eat it?’ And off Sam went. Bang. That’s how it happened.”
The Sydney teen didn’t get sick immediately but complained of leg pain soon after. Doctors ruled out multiple sclerosis, a debilitating disease that his father suffers from.
He told his mom Katie Ballard that he ate the worm but she brushed off his concerns.
“No one gets sick from that,” she told him.
But doctors found he had actually contracted rat lungworm, a disease found in rodents that can also infect snails and slugs through the larvae in their feces.
The disease, which affects the brain and spinal cord, left Ballard with eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis. The teen spent 420 days in a coma and woke up with brain damage, rendering him unable to move his limbs.
Over the past decade, he regained some use of his arms and legs but required assistance to eat and use the bathroom.
Ballard died Nov. 2 at age 29, according to his online obituary.
“Sam was a true battler and hero to his younger brother Joshua and sister Melanie. He had an army of friends and family who have loved and cared for him for which he was truly grateful,” the post said. “His last days were the happiest and he was surrounded by a room full of love.”
Ballard’s final words were, “I love you,” which he told his mom, according to Lisa Wilkinson, a host of TV show “The Sunday Project.”
Galvin said he apologized for not stopping his friend from eating the worm that night. Ballard “just started bawling his eyes out.”
“So, you know he’s there,” Galvin said.
Katie Ballard said that although her son was “still cheeky Sam” after the tragic stunt, “it’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever,” she wrote in a 2011 Facebook post.
His funeral is scheduled for Thursday.
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