Guy who swallowed a garden slug for a dare tragically dies eight years after the nightmare incident
Sam Ballard, a 28-year-old man from Australia, passed away last week after eight years of medical complications that started when he swallowed a garden slug.
The initial incident happened back in 2010, when Ballard was just 19 years old. He had been drinking wine with friends in his garden, when some of them noticed the slug and goaded the then-teenager into eating it.
"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," said Jimmy Galvin, one of Ballard's closest friends. "The conversation came up, you know. ‘Should I eat it?’ And off Sam went. Bang. That’s how it happened."
Very shortly after, though, Ballard realised he had made a grave mistake.
In the days following that fateful evening, Ballard - who was a keen rugby player - started experiencing serious pain in his legs. He told his mother about what he was experiencing, and even expressed concern that the pain might have been caused by eating the slug, but she told him that "no one gets sick from that".
After a visit to the doctor, the young man was worried that he might be developing MS (as his father suffers from the condition), but that was quickly ruled out.
Eventually, it was determined that Ballard had been infected by the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis - a worm that is most commonly found in rodents, but can be present in slugs or snails if they eat rat faeces. This led to him contracting a strand of meningitis called eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, which many people usually recover from.
Tragically, though, Ballard's condition only deteriorated further.
Instead of recovering from his illness, Ballard fell into a coma for 420 days, during which time he developed brain damage. When he awoke, he had lost a great deal of his faculties, and needed help eating and using the bathroom for the remainder of his life. Even so, his mother, Katie, maintains that he still understood "everything", and his friends were still able to see the Sam they once knew in the man.
Galvin recalled that he once apologised to Ballard for not stopping him on the night he ate the slug, at which point Ballard broke down in tears.
In a special news report earlier this year, Lisa Wilkinson spoke about the former rugby player's experience.
Now, in the wake of his death, the reporter gave a short but heartfelt statement about Ballard's passing.
"We have some sad news for you now. Earlier this year we brought you the story of Sam Ballard who, on a dare from his mates, ate a slug. He contracted rat lung disease with devastating effects," she said.
"His friends have stuck by him ever since. On Friday, Sam passed away, surrounded by his family and loyal, loving mates.
"His last words to his mum: ‘I love you’."
Our thoughts go out to all those close to Ballard at this difficult time, and we hope that others might learn to be more careful when participating in dares or activities that could potentially be life-threatening.