An Iron River, Wisconsin resident had been mushroom foraging before – in fact, he’d been picking mushrooms for many years in Northern WI. Confident he picked edible parasol mushrooms at his friend’s house in Long Lake, WI this past July, he decided to make a nice meal of fragrant, sautéed wild mushrooms.
What he would later come to find out was that these weren’t edible parasol mushrooms. In fact, they were some of the most poisonous mushrooms known to man: the destroying angel, also commonly known as death cap mushrooms of the Amanita genus of fungi.
Within several hours, he was experiencing excruciating pain as his body was fighting the poisonous toxins raging through his body. According to Cornell University, these mushrooms “employ a deadly and tricky family of toxins called amatoxins, which cause gastrointestinal distress after five to twelve hours. However, symptoms typically remit after that, and one might assume that the worst has passed without going to the hospital. By the time the symptoms get worse again, after a day or two, it will probably be too late for the victim, who will likely suffer liver and kidney failure and enter a hepatic coma, ending in death. The symptoms are harsh and the ultimate treatment is severe: liver transplant.”
Fortunately, the Iron River resident recognized he needed to get to the emergency room – and fast.
Enter: the staff at the Memorial Medical Center Emergency Room and physician, Dr. Aanders Dommer. Working swiftly, they identified the issue, administered treatment, and consulted with toxicologists in Duluth. It was decided the patient needed to be transferred to Fairview Hospital in Minneapolis, MN. He spent five days in the hospital, receiving charcoal treatments, liver medication, and help with dehydration. Fortunately, no liver transplant was needed.
He said the staff at Fairview were really impressed with the expedited care Dr. Dommer and the rest of the MMC staff provided. “The staff at MMC were fantastic – they saved my life,” he said. “The staff at Fairview were shocked with my recovery and I have MMC to thank for helping me so fast.”
Dr. Dommer at MMC was pleased to see how quickly the patient responded to his symptoms. “This patient did the right thing by getting to the Emergency Room when he realized something was wrong,” said Dr. Dommer. “If he would’ve waited longer, the outcome could’ve been fatal. Never second guess coming to the ER when you think something’s wrong. Time may be of the essence.”
Never pick or eat a mushroom you aren’t 100% sure about. Research and call the DNR if you need help with identification.
According to this patient, it’s just not worth risking your life over some seemingly “tasty” sautéed mushrooms. “They tasted great,” he said. “But I knew in my gut when I picked them that I wasn’t completely sure. That was the first mistake. Do your research and double-check. Always.”
The Atlantic released an informative video highlighting the dangers of picking mushrooms on your own, and of the unseen toxicity of these types of poisonous mushrooms. Click below to watch the video.