In Brief

Australian man who ate slug dies after eight-year paralysis

Sam Ballard, 29, contracted devastating infection after eating a slug as a dare

An Australian man who ate a slug as a dare has died, after spending eight years paralysed by a rare infection.

Sam Ballard, 29, passed away on 2 November at Hornsby Hospital in Sydney, “surrounded by a room full of love”, according to an obituary in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Once a keen rugby player, Ballard’s life changed forever in 2010, when he decided to eat a garden slug as a dare during a party at a friend’s house.

His friend Jimmy Galvin told Australian current affairs show The Project how the fateful moment came about.

“We were sitting over here having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grown ups and a slug came crawling across here,” he said.

“The conversation came up, you know, ‘Should I eat it?’ And off Sam went. Bang. That’s how it happened.”

The friends thought little of the prank at the time. However, over the following days Ballard began to feel unwell and complain of severe leg pain.

Initially, Ballard “worried he might have developed multiple sclerosis, like his father”, the Herald Sun reports, but doctors were able to rule out the disease.

Instead, he was diagnosed with eosinophilic meningoencephalitis contracted as a result of rat lungworm. As its name suggests, the parasite is usually carried by rodents, but can also be transmitted to slugs and snails who consume infected rat faeces.

While most people recover from the infection, Ballard slipped into a coma. When he finally regained consciousness 420 days later, he had suffered brain damage which left him paralysed from the waist down.

For the next seven years, Ballard “was unable to eat for himself and needed help going to the bathroom”, says Sky News.

Although he was unable to speak, “when his friends visited, they said his face lit up and he was very much ‘still there’”, News.com.au reports.

In their obituary, Ballard’s family described him as “a true battler” whose difficult final years had been brightened by “an army of friends and family”.

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