Queensland man David Dowell, a father of three, died more than six months ago from a devastating salmonella infection that was possibly caused by ingesting a gecko as part of a dare.
His family are still trying to find out exactly why Dowell died, and are seeking answers from the hospital that treated him.
A quick warning: the descriptions of David Dowell’s symptoms during his illness are pretty graphic.
Dowell first became ill in early December last year, after a Christmas party. Although initially attributing his symptoms to a hangover, by Monday he was very unwell.
His sister Hannah told the Sydney Morning Herald:
On Monday, it was coming out both ends and he was really sick and the moment he started throwing up and it was green, that’s when they rang the ambulance.
When they got there, the [paramedics] didn’t even want to take him [to hospital]. They said he just had gastro and his partner said, ‘No, you’ve got to take him; it’s not just gastro.’
By Tuesday, Dowell had been diagnosed with salmonella at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane. You’ve probably heard salmonella mentioned alongside a number of food scares. Most of the time it causes straightforward food poisoning – vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and fever – but in some people the bacteria can move into the bloodstream and cause a much more severe reaction.
Dowell’s family initially thought chicken at the Christmas party was the culprit, but then one of his friends brought up the fact that he might have eaten a gecko that night. Sister Hannah explained:
[David’s partner] told the doctor and the doctor said, ‘That could have been it.’ But there has been no evidence that he actually at it, because there was, ‘Oh yeah I saw him eat it’. And then, ‘No, I didn’t see him eat it.’ It was a dare, so he might have intended to eat it and then thrown it away.
Hannah says David Dowell never mentioned whether or not he ate the gecko. His symptoms became worse, with extreme bloating, black urine and green vomit, and eventually fluid on his lungs. Hannah describes him as being “in absolute agony“.
Dowell’s mother, Michelle, told the SMH:
His testicles were swollen up to grapefruits and there was fluid leaking from them and [the doctors] said that was normal, it was just all of the fluid in his stomach cavity.
A week after being diagnosed, David Dowell died during surgery. According to his family, he had suffered mass organ failure. They are continuing to question decisions made by staff at the Mater, but have stopped short of calling for an inquest. The Coroner’s Court found that he had received appropriate care.