A family is looking for answers after a father of three died 10 days after being dared to eat a gecko at a party.
David Dowell, who was 34, was dared to eat a gecko at a Christmas party on December 1 last year. After allegedly ingesting the animal, he continued to party before heading home. Then, on Monday, December 3, he began to feel incredibly unwell.
"It was coming out both ends," David's sister Hannah told The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH). "He was really sick and the moment he started throwing up and it was green, that’s when they rang the ambulance."
Doctors at Brisbane's Mater Hospital, Australia, at first believed he had gastroenteritis or a hangover and were ready to discharge him, the Independent reports. However, the family insisted it wasn't that simple, and the doctors admitted him. On Tuesday he was diagnosed with a Salmonella infection, which over the next few days began to get worse.
Salmonella causes around 1.2 million illnesses in the US every year. Most people develop abdominal pains, vomiting, and diarrhea and recover within 4-7 days without treatment. However, it can be more serious, with 23,000 hospitalizations and 450 deaths in the US annually. Hospitalizations are generally required when the diarrhea is so severe it causes dehydration.
Salmonella is generally caused by contaminated water or food, or occasionally people getting a little too smoochy with hedgehogs. However, reptiles are also a known source of the bacterial disease.
"Contact with reptiles can be a source of human Salmonella infections," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned on their website after an outbreak in 2015. "Reptiles can be carrying Salmonella bacteria but appear healthy and clean and show no signs of illness."
Whether David actually ate the gecko or merely handled it is unclear, with conflicting reports from party-goers. His symptoms got worse, with his family reporting that he was in agony before being put into a medically induced coma.
"His testicles were swollen up to grapefruits and there was fluid leaking from them," his mother told the SMH. "[The doctors] said that was normal, it was just all of the fluid in his stomach cavity."
On Tuesday, December 11, just 10 days after allegedly being dared to eat the gecko, David died during surgery following mass organ failure. His family says they aren't sure for certain what killed him, however, “on the actual death certificate, it did say ingestion of a gecko, so I’m assuming it was that,” his partner Allira Bricknell told 7News.
The family has concerns and questions about how David was treated at the hospital, and are now demanding answers, though they are not seeking a formal inquest.
They are also using the attention on David's death to warn others that they should look out for signs of Salmonella poisoning and realize how dangerous it can be for the infected, so that other families don't have to go through the same ordeal.
Allira also told anyone thinking of performing a similar stunt not to.
"We never thought this would happen," she told 7News. "It was just a big shock and it still is a big shock."