A gifted rugby player who became a paraplegic after swallowing a garden slug as a dare has died after an eight-year battle with a parasite infection.
Sam Ballard, 28, spent three years in hospital after eating the garden slug at a party in 2010 when he was just 19.
The ‘cheeky larrikin’ passed away on Friday surrounded by family and a loyal group of friends after years of medical complications following the incident.
Mr Ballard’s last words to his mother Katie were: ‘I love you’.
Sam Ballard (pictured), who was left a paraplegic after swallowing a slug as part of a dare at a backyard party in 2010, passed away last week
The ‘cheeky larrikin’ passed away on Friday surrounded by family and a loyal group of friends after years of medical complications following the incident
Tragically Mr Ballard contracted eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis and lapsed into a coma for 420 days, suffering a severe infection to his brain
Before the dare Mr Ballard had been a promising young rugby player at his high school, Barker College, on Sydney’s upper north shore.
Earlier this year his mates Jimmy Galvin and Michael Sheasby told The Project of the fateful night that changed their lives.
‘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,’ Mr Galvin said.
‘The conversation came up, should I eat it? Off Sam went. Bang. That’s how it happened.’
In the following days Mr Ballard fell ill and was told by doctors he had been infected with ‘rat lungworm’.
The worm is commonly found in rats but snails or slugs can be infected when they eat rodent droppings.
Tragically Mr Ballard contracted eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis and lapsed into a coma for 420 days, suffering a severe infection to his brain.
Sam Ballard spent three years in hospital after eating the garden slug at a backyard party in 2010, when he was just 19
Prior to the dare Mr Ballard was a promising young rugby star at Barker College on Sydney’s north shore. Mr Ballard’s mother Katie (right) described her son as a ‘larrikin’ but ‘invincible’
Mr Ballard defied the odds, managing to regain the use of his arms despite doctors thinking he would not be able to
Before the accident, Mr Ballard’s mother Katie described how she saw her son as ‘invincible’.
In a Facebook post from 2011, Ms Ballard said she hoped her son would walk again.
‘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 is was we don’t know,’ she wrote.
She later said the accident completely changed his life.
‘It’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It’s huge. The impact is huge,’ she said.