February 9, 1996 in Nation/World

Man Dies, Girl Gets Liver Graft After Eating Lethal Mushrooms 13-Year-Old’s Mother, Brothers Also Ill From Handpicked Fungi

Karyn Hunt Associated Press
 
Tags:Death

A 13-year-old girl who fell ill along with her family after eating lethal “death cap” mushrooms in spaghetti sauce received a liver transplant Thursday.

Even as she was recovering, officials announced that a man had died Tuesday from eating handpicked mushrooms. Arturo Leyba-Sanchez, 43, was rushed to a hospital in Petaluma, about 30 miles north of San Francisco, on Monday with acute stomach pains. An autopsy revealed toxic substances found in poisonous mushrooms.

Doctors said it is not likely that the girl’s mother and her brothers, 11 and 14 years old, will need new livers. The three were upgraded to fair condition Thursday.

The family, whose identity was not released, had picked the wild mushrooms near a reservoir Saturday. They sliced up the fungi, which have a strong odor akin to smelly sneakers, combined them with less toxic mushrooms they also had picked and put them in spaghetti sauce.

By the next morning, four of them had stomach pains and went to the hospital.

The girl became sickest because her portion had contained more of the deadly mushrooms, said Dr. William Freedman, an expert with the San Francisco Mycological Society who consulted with the family’s doctors.

After an eight-hour operation, the girl was listed in serious but stable condition, which is normal after a major transplant, said Bill Gordon, a spokesman at the University of California Medical Center.

In a relatively new procedure, doctors grafted the left lobe of a donor’s liver onto the girl’s liver in hopes it would help the old organ rejuvenate itself and allow the girl to live without having to take anti-rejection drugs.

If the new portion, described as about the size of a flattened-out baseball, does not help, the girl could need another transplant later.

Freedman said there is little chance the poison will cause additional harm because her old liver absorbed most of the toxins.

In Petaluma, officials were trying to find where Sanchez had picked the mushrooms. Sanchez, who migrated to the United States from Mexico a year ago, reportedly ate the mushrooms Saturday.

Rose Ann Soloway of the American Association of Poison Control Centers in Washington said the group receives 40 to 50 reports a year of mushroom poisoning, including two deaths since 1993.

Asians are disproportionately victims, especially in California, Freedman said. Several years ago, a dozen Laotians were poisoned.

“They must eat a similar mushroom in their country, but we don’t know what it is that they think they are eating,” Freedman said.

Recent rains in Northern California have provided an ideal, moist environment for the “death cap” mushrooms, the most dangerous in the world, Freedman said.

They often are characterized by a metallic green, shiny top with white or pale gills underneath.

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