A woman ate a mushroom from her garden in Newport. it almost killed her


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That night, however, at a meeting at a friend’s house, she didn’t really feel like champagne, which was unusual for her, she said. That night she became extremely ill. And it wasn’t ripe cheese or vintage wine. The mushroom she had eaten, she was later told, turned out to have a name: the hat of death. It also has a reputation: one of the deadliest mushrooms in the world. His toxins attacked his organs and caused vomiting and, at the same time, diarrhea. Her doctor told her that her loved ones should come soon and that she may need a liver transplant to save her life.

A month and a half later, King, 62, is alive to talk about it, assigning care at Newport Hospital and a combination of treatments, including a non-FDA approved drug made from thistle extract. -Marie, for saving her life. liver. This week, she’s getting ready for Thanksgiving in her New York City apartment. Counting her blessings, she will eat turkey.

“But no wild mushrooms,” she says. “No foraging at all.”

Definitive statistics on mushroom poisonings in Rhode Island are difficult to come by. But they appear to be relatively rare: According to Newport hospital’s parent company, Lifespan Corp., this hospital has had fungal poisoning this year and one last year. Miriam Hospital also had one in both years. The state’s largest and busiest hospital, Rhode Island Hospital, had four this year, up from two last year – double a very small sample.

But enthusiasts say mushroom research is growing in popularity, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced people to indulge their leisure time outdoors. It is safe, if you take precautions.

“I am an example of how it can be done well and safely – it is so important to know what you are doing, to follow the rules and to be 100% sure that you identify a fungus”, said Dr. Victoria Leytin, a brunette emergency doctor who has worked at Miriam and Newport hospitals and has been looking for mushrooms for a few years. “It’s a fun hobby, but you have to do it very carefully and take it very seriously. “

Leytin has never seen mushroom poisoning in his medical career, aside from a few cases of magic mushrooms and one case where someone had general stomach problems after eating mushrooms with no long-term effects. Leytin, who was not involved in King’s care, said that as a rule, she did not eat mushrooms with “gills” on the underside. This includes the Death Hat, as well as some edible varieties, but Leytin is playing it safe. There is a saying in the mushroom community: “There are old mushroom hunters, and there are daring mushroom hunters, but there are no old daring mushroom hunters. “

Walter Sturgeon, the Ohio-based author of several mushroom field guides who also consulted with poison control centers, said a photograph of the mushroom King had eaten could have been a death hat, but also a species called “angel of destruction”. “They are both similar and deadly.

King is from Nottinghamshire, England, the home of Robin Hood, who, King noted, would likely have eaten mushrooms himself.

She moved across the pond to New York about 30 years ago and has also had a home in Newport for about 25 years. About six years ago, she bought a house on Bellevue Avenue, with a yard that could accommodate some light food. She had attended a lecture at the library on finding and identifying fungi, and had also purchased a calendar about them. But she missed a guided walk in Norman Bird Sanctuary because it was full.

One of the lecturers at the library, Ryan Bouchard of the Rhode Island-based Mushroom Hunting Foundation, said they explicitly mentioned the death ceiling as something to be avoided.

“Our conversation is fraught with warnings,” said Bouchard, who added that he and his fiancee, Emily Schmidt, had taught thousands of people to feed themselves safely. “Mushroom hunting is safe, but you have to identify the species. “

Bouchard says people should never eat a mushroom they can’t identify, let alone a wild mushroom with gills, which should only be eaten by experts – as the calendar book he sells suggests. to people. “When in doubt,” the book says, “throw it away”.

Some people he knows have fallen ill from mildly poisonous mushrooms which cause stomach upset but are not fatal, but this is the first case he knows where someone has eaten a deadly mushroom. But recently, some people’s dogs have died after eating mushrooms, he said.

For the past few years, King had eaten an edible mushroom called lion’s mane mushroom from his yard, on a tree stump. When she returns to the UK, she also searches for her food there, although her husband did not participate: he joked that she was trying to poison him with her cooking.

A few mistakes led King to poison himself in October. She admitted that they tell you to watch out for mushrooms. But she had loaned the mushroom calendar guide to the person who does her lawn, she said. And she usually asks him for advice on mushrooms, but he wasn’t in town that day. She sent a photo to a friend, requesting a consultation, but the friend did not respond.

When she went ahead and ate it anyway, it really didn’t taste that different from other mushrooms – “It was pretty good, I hate to say it,” King said – but luckily , she stopped at one of them. One of them made her sick enough.

As she fought for her life in the hospital, her husband James called friends for advice. A friend in the pharmaceutical industry – the husband of the lady with whom she had drunk champagne with the first night, in this case – helped them find the milk thistle extract drug, an intravenous drug sold. under the brand name Legalon.

It took a long time to get the drug, which prevents toxins from shutting down the liver. It is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The manufacturer, Mylan, had to get clearance from the FDA to use it as a new investigational drug in this case.

King credits the team of doctors and nurses at Newport Hospital for saving his life. She’s not sure whether milk thistle made a difference or not, but she believes she received more careful care there from a team led by Dr Eric Wright than she could have. ‘have if she had been back to New York.

In the meantime, she has eaten mushrooms since she was close to death, but only the ones she bought from Stop and Shop.

“People need to know to be really, really careful,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this. They may not be so lucky.


Brian Amaral can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @ bamaral44.


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