An Australian teenager who was dared by a group of drinking buddies to eat a garden slug at a party in 2010 ended up losing his ability to move before ultimately losing his life nearly a decade later.
In 2010, life was good for Sam Ballard. Surrounded by a close-knit group of friends, the healthy 19-year-old rugby player from Sydney, Australia was full of life and ambition, and was getting by trying to act like grown-ups, as one friend put it. But things quickly changed for Ballad after a night at a friend's house when he was dared to eat a seemingly harmless slug.
"We were sitting, having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grown-ups and a slug came crawling across," Ballar's friend Jimmy Galvin later told Australian current affairs program The Sunday Project (via Sky News). "And then the conversation came up, 'Should I eat it?' And then off Sam went and bang, that's how it happened."
Little did Ballard know that the slug he found on his friend's back patio was infected by a rat lungworm, a deadly parasite, and as soon as he put the slug in his mouth, Ballard was also infected.
According to Sky News, Ballard fell into a 420-day coma shortly after he contracted a strand of meningitis called eosinophilic meningoencephalitis from the slug. And while most people who contract this particular strand of meningitis recover, Ballard was the exception, and the once healthy athlete was then forever confined to a wheelchair. He would remain in the chair, under around the clock care, for the rest of his life.
According to his friends and family, Ballard remained full of life and love despite his deteriorated state up until he passed away from complications from the paralysis in early November 2018.
"He's in there, 100%," Galvin told The Sunday Project. "I apologized to Sam about everything that happened that night in the backyard. And he just started bawling his eyes out. I know he's there."
Shortly after Ballad lost his battle, Lisa Wilkinson, the host of The Sunday Project, reported on her blog that he passed away on November 2 "surrounded by 20 of those he most loved in the world."
"[Ballard's mother] Katie tells me 'the room was so full of love,'" Wilkinson said. "One of his friends there in the room continued, 'He had his voice and he said 'I love you' several times to Katie.'"
Despite everything that her son went through over the past decade, Katie Ballard does not hold anything against her son's friends for the putting him up to the dare on that night in 2010.
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