Former Australian rugby player Sam Ballad, who was 19 years old at the time, went to a friend’s party in 2010, where he was dared to swallow a garden slug, News.com.au reports.
He was sitting around a table with his friends having a few drinks and successfully completed the dare. Sam soon became sick and ended up at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, where he was diagnosed with rat lungworm.
The worm is typically found in rodents, but it can also be found in snails or slugs who eat feces of rat infected with the parasite. Most people develop no symptoms, but rarely, the lungworm can infect the brain.
That’s what happened to Sam.
Sam had eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, which is, in theory, treatable. However, Sam lapsed into a coma for 420 days and became a quadriplegic.
Sam’s mother, Katie, who had described her son prior to this incident as her “rough-and-tumble Sam,” initially had hope that he would walk and talk again, but has since admitted that both her and her son’s life will never be the same. “It’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It’s huge. The impact is huge,” Katie said.
Sam needs expensive round-the-clock care. When Sam was fresh out of the hospital, his friends helped raised money for his care, but the constant expense means that no money is ever enough. Sam is now 28 and has seizures, needs to be tube fed, and cannot control his own body temperature, as the Daily Telegraph reported.
What’s more, Katie applied for an insurance package worth $492,000 Australian dollars to cover Sam’s costly care, which had been coming through until September of last year without a problem. However, in September, Katie received a text that Sam’s plan was inexplicably reduced to $135,000, leaving the family in serious debt.
Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme told the Daily Telegraph that it was “working closely with the Ballard family” to resolve the situation and increase Sam’s insurance package.