The heartbreaking last words of the rugby player who died after eating a slug eight years ago have been revealed.
Popular teenager Sam Ballard ate the toxic creature for a spontaneous dare when he was just 19.
Sam was rushed to hospital where doctors told him he had been infected with rat lungworm.
While the disease is usually found in rodents, snails and slugs can become infected as they often eat the rats’ faeces.
The excrement contains a parasite which is known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
He spent 420 days in a coma after developing eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis.
Earlier today it was revealed Sam had died at the age of 28, shortly after telling his mother “I love you”.
Ballard died last Friday, Lisa Wilkinson, a presenter on Australian TV show The Sunday Project, said.
“We have some sad news for you now,” she said.
“Earlier this year we brought you the story of Sam Ballard who, on a dare from his mates, ate a slug. He contracted rat lung disease with devastating effects.
“His friends have stuck by him ever since. On Friday, Sam passed away, surrounded by his family and loyal, loving mates.
“His last words to his mum: ‘I love you’.”
Ballard ingested the poisonous mollusc at a friend’s party in 2010 in Sydney after accepting a dare.
His friend Jimmy Galvin explained later: “We were sitting, having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grown ups and a slug came crawling across.
“The conversation came up, ‘Should I eat it?’ Off Sam went. Bang. That’s how it happened.”
He didn’t become sick immediately, but complained of serious pain in his legs in the days after.
He was worried it might’ve been a symptom of eating the slug, but his mother told him not to worry: “No-one gets sick from that,” she said.
Sam was worried he might have developed Multiple sclerosis, like his father, but that was ruled out.
When Sam woke from his 420-day coma he found he had become a quadriplegic.
The parasite caused an infection on the brain.
Sam’s mother, Kate, always remained hopeful that her son would walk and talk again.
But she had resigned herself to the fact that he would never be the same again.
She said: “It’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It’s huge. The impact is huge.”
Sam was released from hospital three years after falling ill and was able to move around in a motorised wheelchair.
His friends raised money for the round-the-clock care he required with Sam suffering seizures. Among his other problems were an inability to control his body temperature. He needed to be tube fed.
In 2016 Sam’s disability allowance of $492,000 was slashed to just $135,000, which left the family in debt.