Mushroom Picked in Yard Poisons Woman and Son

Kam Look, 63, requires liver transplant after tainted meal
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 23, 2022 11:50 AM CDT
Mushroom Picked in Yard Poisons Woman and Son
Amanita phalloides   (Getty Images/empire331)

"For me, it looked like any other normal capped mushrooms, which I thought it was very safe to eat," Kam Look said. To be sure they were as safe as the ones she grew up eating in Malaysia, Look cooked the mushroom, which she had picked in a friend's Massachusetts yard, with ginger, MassLive reports. One theory is that the ginger will turn black if it's cooked with something poisonous. Everything looked good, so Look, 63, put the mushroom in a meal for herself and her son Kai Chen, 27. Hours later, the two had symptoms they said felt like those of food poisoning—but worse. The mushroom was Amanita phalloides, more popularly known as a death cap mushroom.

After two days, Look and Chen went to a hospital, where doctors decided the problem was amatoxin poisoning and sent them to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. "They were both very ill and had signs of liver damage" when they arrived, said Dr. Stephanie Carreiro, per Doctors had an experimental drug flown in from Philadelphia to stabilize the patients, per CBS Boston. Look had acute liver failure and had to undergo a liver transplant after a 24-hour search for a organ. After a couple of weeks, both have recovered. But Chen said, "The emotional toll of the experience has been very great."

Carreiro, a toxicology expert, doesn't recommend foraging for mushrooms. More than 700 people in the US become ill each year from eating mushrooms, she said, usually the type that Chen and Look had, which can be found in several parts of the country. One cap of the mushroom has enough poison to kill two people, and Carreiro said a handful of people are killed each year. "I feel like we learned a very big, important lesson here," Chen said. (More mushrooms stories.)

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