Former Rugby Player Paralyzed After Swallowing Garden Slug On A Dare Now Has To Fight For Government Aid

Quadriplegic moves his arm for the first time in eight years thanks to novel neuro-prosthesis
Sam Ballard was 19 years old when he swallowed a garden slug on a dare. The life of the former rugby player dramatically changed after that, with his family now seeking financial aid from the government for his medical bills.  ( Ratfink1973 | Pixabay )

A former rugby player from Australia who was paralyzed after swallowing a garden slug will now have to fight back against the government to continue receiving financial assistance.

The infection that resulted from the garden slug was supposed to be easy to recover from, but unfortunately, that did not happen for this case.

Teenager Paralyzed After Swallowing Slug, Getting Rat Lungworm

Sam Ballard was 19 years old back in 2010, when while attending a party, he was dared to swallow a garden slug. Ballard gave in to the dare and swallowed the slug, a decision that would change his life forever.

The then-teenager fell ill and was brought to the Royal North Shore hospital. He was diagnosed to have been infected with rat lungworm, a parasite that is found in rodents but may infect slugs and snails if they eat rat feces.

Most people develop no symptoms after being infected with rat lungworm, and rarely does the parasite affect the brain. Ballard, however, contracted a brain infection known as eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, which is a form of meningitis. It appeared that he was recovering, but he then fell into a coma for 420 days.

When Ballard woke up, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He had to stay for three years in the hospital, and now that he is out, he is on a wheelchair. Ballard continues to suffer from seizures, and his body is unable to control its own temperature.

Ballard Family Seeks Financial Aid

Eight years after the incident, Ballard, who is now 27 years old, still requires constant medical attention. Unfortunately, surviving the tragic turn of events is not where the ordeal of the Ballard family ends.

In 2016, Ballard was deemed by Australia's National Disability Insurance Scheme to be eligible for a disability package worth $492,000 that will be applied toward his medical bills. However, in September last year, the NDIS sent a text message to Ballard's mother saying that after a review, the allocation was slashed to only $135,000.

The NDIS did not provide an explanation for the funding cut, and with round-the-clock care necessary for Ballard, the family is now heavily in debt.

The NDIS, meanwhile, said that it had been working closely with Ballard's family to come up with a resolution and increase the support package for the former rubgy player.

The Spread Of Rat Lungworm

Over 2017, the spread of the rat lungworm was followed from Maui, to Hawaii, then to Florida. Health officials started taking the parasite seriously, despite the low fatality rate of an infection.

How did the rat lungworm parasite spread across the world? According to a study last year, it was because of globalization and climate change.

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