Rugby player Sam Ballard dies eight years after swallowing slug for a dare that left him paralysed
The man, described as a 'cheeky larrikin', died on November 2 surrounded by members of his family and a devoted group of friends
A talented rugby player, who was paralyzed after he swallowed a garden slug at a party for a dare, has died following a battle with a parasitic infection that lasted eight years. Sam Ballard (28) was in the hospital for three years after he ate a garden slug at a party when he was 19 years old in 2010. The man, who was described as a "cheeky larrikin", died on November 2 surrounded by members of his family and a devoted group of friends who stuck with him through the long years of medical complications after the incident took place.
The Daily Mail reported that Ballard's last words to his mother, Katie Ballard, was: "I love you". Before the teen was dared to eat the slug, he was a talented rugby player at Barker College, his high school, in the upper north shore of Sydney, Australia.
In April this year, his friends and teammates Jimmy Galvin and Michael Sheasby, told The Project in an interview about the night that changed all their lives. Galvin said: "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. The conversation came up, should I eat it? Off Sam went. Bang. That's how it happened."
In the days after the teen fell ill because of the slug, doctors told him that he caught an infection because of a "rat lungworm". Commonly found in rats, the worm can also infect slugs and snails sometimes when they eat rodent droppings.
Unfortunately for Ballard, the slug he swallowed was infected with the worm and he contracted eosinophilic meningoencephalitis. Ballard then lapsed into a coma for about 420 days after he suffered a severe infection to his brain.
Sam, who was once a promising rugby player, spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, continuing to suffer seizures and the split-second 'prank' left him a quadriplegic. Sheasby described the first time he walked into Sam's hospital room after the accident. He said in a Metro report: "When I walked in, he was very very gaunt, and there were cables everywhere – it was a big shock."
Before he had his tragic accident, Katie Ballard described her son as being an "invincible" human being. In 2011, she put up a status on Facebook saying that she hopes he will walk again soon. She wrote: "Sam is doing really well. He is still the same cheeky Sam and laughs a lot. He will walk and talk again (thank god) but the time factor... we don't know."
The devastated but hopeful mother later said the accident changed her son's life completely. She said: "It's devastating, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It's huge. The impact is huge."