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Poisoning Victim to Get Liver Transplant

Mushrooms: Teenage girl who ate 'death caps' was to undergo surgery at UC San Francisco. Brothers and mother are also seriously ill.

February 08, 1996| From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A teenage girl, near death from eating handpicked "death cap" mushrooms, was to undergo an emergency liver transplant late Wednesday.

The 13-year-old girl, her two brothers and her mother were poisoned last weekend after eating the mushrooms, which they had cooked in spaghetti sauce.

The girl was placed on an emergency waiting list. A donor was found in Northern California, although the donor's family asked that no other information be released, said Bill Gordon, spokesman for UC San Francisco, where the girl is hospitalized.

The operation was expected to begin at 11 p.m. and take six to eight hours, Gordon said.

Dr. Jack Lake, head of the UC San Francisco organ transplant program, had said the girl would die within the week without a transplant.

The girl's mother and two brothers, 11 and 14, were listed in serious condition. It "is too soon to tell" if they will also need transplants, Lake said.

The Orinda family apparently picked the death cap mushrooms--Amanita phalloides--near the Lafayette Reservoir east of San Francisco Bay, cut them up and used them in a spaghetti sauce they ate Saturday night.

Rose Ann Soloway, administrator of the American Assn. of Poison Control Centers in Washington, said the case underlined the danger of amateur mushroom hunting. The association receives 40 to 50 reports a year of mushroom poisonings, including two fatalities since 1993.

"We recommend that people not forage for wild mushrooms unless they in fact are experts, or the person identifying the mushrooms is someone with whom they would trust their life," Soloway said. "And keep some uncooked specimens for identification purposes when you get sick."

Dr. William Freedman, chairman of the toxicology committee of the San Francisco Mycological Society, has consulted with the family's doctors about the case. He said the family ate two kinds of poisonous mushrooms.

"The other one hasn't been identified yet," he said.

The fuzzy white coating on top of the death cap may have made the family mistake it for a common edible mushroom called Coccoli, he said.

The death cap is believed to be the world's deadliest mushroom, said Freedman.

"Amanita phalloides has probably killed more people than any other mushroom in the world," he said. "Some books say it causes 95% of fatalities."

Recent rains in Northern California have provided an ideal, moist environment for the growth of the stout-looking mushroom, he said.

The mushroom "looks like a white egg when it comes out of the ground, with a white sponge coating on top of the mushroom," Freedman said.

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