“In a single night, his life … changed forever.” So says the host of an Australian TV show in her tribute column to Sam Ballard, a young man who took an ill-advised dare from his friends in 2010 and just died from complications related to that challenge.
The New Zealand Herald reports that Ballard—said to be either 27 or 28—passed away eight years after his pals, during a night of drinking, egged him on to eat a slug.
Ballard did, and soon after he started feeling pain in his legs; the Independent notes he also started vomiting and had dizzy spells. He ended up falling into a coma for more than a year, and the reason was stunning: He’d been infected with rat lungworm, a parasite usually found in rodents, but which can occasionally end up in snails and slugs if they eat rat excrement.
As a result of the parasite, Ballard contracted a type of meningitis tied to rat lungworm, and things went downhill from there.
The former rugby player had since had limited movement in his limbs, needed help going to the bathroom and eating, and had trouble communicating, though, based on his reactions to things, “you [knew he was] there,” one of his friends tells the Herald.
Ballard’s mother, who has said she doesn’t blame his friends for the slug-eating dare, has been fighting the Australian government since at least last October, when her son’s disability funding was significantly cut.
Lisa Wilkinson, the TV host who’s interviewed the Ballards, says his final words to his mom were: “I love you.”
(This teen’s friends buried him in sand. Then came the hookworms.)