ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - A Filipino-American couple from Springfield, Virginia survived eating poisonous mushrooms harvested from their own backyard.
Frank Constantinopla, 49, and his wife became sick after eating a variety of mushrooms known locally as “Death Caps” (Amanita phalloides).
He was rushed to the Georgetown University Hospital where acquaintances said he was given a new experimental drug made from milk thistle that could have saved his life. The drug called Silibinin is approved in Europe but is still being tested in the United States.
He is one of at least 4 people from Virginia and Maryland who have been downed the past days by poisonous mushrooms.
Days of thunderstorms in the region seemed to have produced a proliferation of these wild mushrooms.
Constantinopla and his wife picked the toxic mushrooms in their garden and stir-fried them. He immediately felt dizzy, nauseous and fatigued, exhibiting symptoms of dysentery. His wife also fell ill but experienced a milder reaction.
He said he didn’t think the mushrooms were poisonous because he used to look for them after thunderstorms in the Philippines and mix them with their meals.
“We thought they were organic…We thought it was a good mushroom because it sprung up in our backyard,” Constantinopla told reporters.
He recalled that he was even pleasantly surprised to see the mushrooms sprouting in his backyard but none in his neighbors'.
Another man, Walter Lantz, 82 of Frederick, Maryland was rushed to the Georgetown University Hospital over the weekend after eating mushrooms from his backyard. Two women from Warrenton, Virginia were brought to the same hospital after eating similar mushrooms.
Doctors said they were downed by the “Avening Angel” mushroom, an especially toxic variety that at its worst requires a liver transplant to save the patient.
Hospital officials said the women, one of whom was visiting from Thailand, got the mushrooms from a farm and ate them Thursday evening.
They urged the public to avoid eating backyard mushrooms and stick to the ones they can buy in the grocery.
“I’m lucky I’m still alive today,” Constantinopla said.
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