UMass Memorial doctors save mother and son who nearly died after eating ‘death cap’ mushroom


WORCESTER – Doctors at UMass Memorial Medical Center were able to save a mother and son who nearly died from mushroom poisoning.

It didn’t take long for Kai Chen and his mother Kam Look to know they were in trouble.

“For both of us what it felt like was that we were really in imminent danger,” said Kai Chen.

About two weeks ago the mother and son ate a mushroom picked from a friend’s backyard in Amherst.

Look, 63, says it reminded her of mushrooms she used to eat where she grew up in Malaysia.

A mushroom that nearly killed an Amherst mother and son.

UMass Memorial Medical Center

“For me it looked like any other normal capped mushrooms which I thought it was very safe to eat,” Look’s 27-year-old son said, translating for her.

It was in fact poisonous. The mother and son say symptoms hit in a couple of hours. They say it felt like food poisoning but worse. The symptoms did not go away.

They arrived at UMass Memorial and were greeted by Dr. Stephanie Carreiro. “When they came in, they were both very ill and had signs of liver damage and Kam actually had signs of kidney damage as well from the mushrooms,” Dr. Carreiro said.

A rare experimental drug was flown in from Philadelphia to stabilize them. The mother ultimately had to have a liver transplant.

Doctors call the mushroom they ate a “death cap” mushroom and say it has enough poison in the cap alone to kill two people.  

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