An ex-rugby player in Australia swallowed a garden slug on a dare, and is now fighting his government in order to keep receiving financial aid for treatment.
Sam Ballard was 19 years old in 2010. While at a party, he was dared to swallow a live garden slug, which he did – a decision he now very much regrets as it changed his life, Tech Times reports. Ballard contracted an infection from the slug, which was initially supposed to be easy enough to treat and recover from.
Ballard fell ill and was taken to the Royal North Shore hospital, where he was diagnosed with a rat lungworm infection.
This parasite is generally found in rodents, but may also be transferred to slugs and snails if they eat rat feces.
Most people infected with rat lungworm don’t show symptoms, and the condition rarely affects the brain. However, Ballard contracted a brain infection called eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, a form of meningitis, as a result of ingesting the parasite. He appeared to be recovering at first, but then fell into a coma for 420 days.
When Ballard finally woke up, he was paralyzed from the neck down and had to stay for an additional three years in the hospital. Upon release, he had to be confined to a wheelchair. He continues to suffer from seizures, and is unable to control his own body temperature.
Now 27 years old, Ballard still requires constant medical attention, eight years after that fateful night. In 2016, Ballard was said to be eligible for a disability package from Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, with $492,000 going towards covering his medical bills. But in September last year, the family received a text message saying that after a review, the funding was slashed to $135,000 – little more than a quarter of the original amount.
The NDIS did not provide an explanation for the cut, and the family is now heavily in debt due to the constant care Ballard needs. The NDIS says it is working closely with the family to resolve the case and come up with a more substantial package for Ballard.