When Sam Ballard's friends dared him to eat a slug that was crawling across the patio in 2010, the 19-year-old accepted the challenge without a second thought.
In an interview with The Sunday Project, one of his friends said they were having a "wine appreciation night" when Ballard took on the dare.
Within days of eating the slug, Ballard noticed pain in his legs.
Doctors determined that the Australian man had contracted eosinophilic meningitis - a rare disease that affects the membranes of the brain and spinal cord - from the slug, which was infected with the rat lungworm parasite, according to Sky News.
The rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is a parasite that typically lives in rats, slugs, and snails. Eating a raw snail can cause an infection that leads to eosinophilic meningitis.
The brain infection left Ballard in a coma for 420 days and paralysed him from the waist down.
The former rugby player endured years of rehabilitation and therapy, but was never able to regain complete movement or walk again.
The Sunday Project reported that the 28-year-old died from complications of the injury on Friday. "Sam passed away on Friday morning at Hornsby Hospital, not far from where he grew up, surrounded by 20 of those he most loved in the world," she wrote. His mother, Katie Ballard, who cared for him full-time, was by his side.
One of his friends who was in the hospital room on Friday said, "He had his voice and he said 'I love you' several times to Katie."
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