Sam Ballard, once a promising young Australian rugby player, was tragically left paralyzed after he swallowed a common garden slug on a dare. Unbeknownst to Ballard, the slug was infected with rat lungworm, a disease that can be contracted by humans. Ballard is now a quadriplegic and requires constant medical care. However, his family is struggling to pay their numerous medical bills.
It was 2010 when the young rugby player was at a friend’s party, sitting outside. A slug had crawled across the table, and one of Sam Ballard’s friends dared him to eat it. The prank was harmless enough, but the consequences ended up being dire. As doctors later diagnosed, the slug had been infected with a parasite known as rat lungworm. This occurs when the slug has been feeding on rat feces that contains the parasite.
After ingesting the slug, Ballard contracted eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, which according to the CDC, causes “increased levels of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the fluid around the brain and spinal cord.” The condition is often not serious, and the strapping rugby player seemed to be getting better. Ballard’s mother, Katie, described her son as “invincible” and “rough-and-tumble” during an interview with 7 News Sydney.
However, the parasite that Ballard ingested eventually infected his brain. The young man slipped into a coma and remained comatose for 420 days. When he awoke, he had suffered severe brain damage and was left a quadriplegic. Ballard requires constant care, as he is no longer able to feed or take care of himself. He suffers from constant seizures and must live with a tracheostomy tube in place to assist in his breathing.
When the former rugby player was released from the hospital, his friends and family helped to raise money for the constant care required to keep the young man alive. Sam’s mother also applied to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which was created by the Australian government in order to help fund care for people with disabilities. Initially, Sam was eligible for a package amounting to $492,000 from the government, which his mother applied for in 2016.
Unfortunately, in September 2017, the funds were dramatically reduced to only about $135,000. The Ballard family has struggled immensely already and required the money to cover the rising cost of Sam’s care. “It’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It’s huge. The impact is huge,” Katie Ballard said of her son’s condition to 7 News Sydney.
According to a quote given to the Daily Telegraph, the NDIS is now trying to rectify the situation, saying it is “working closely” with the Ballards in order to find a solution to the family’s financial trouble. Currently, the Ballards are in debt for roughly $42,000 to a nursing service that had been helping to provide care for Sam.
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