A 24-year-old Newington woman has been at Saint Francis Hospital for the past five days after eating a poisonous wild mushroom from her backyard.
She is recovering after a doctor treated her with an experimental procedure that he credits with potentially saving her life.
"It was a really scary moment for me," Wafa Guloona said.
Guloona and three family members ate the mushrooms that her mother, Shah Noor, picked from the yard, just like she used to do in their native homeland of Pakistan.
After picking them, Noor put them in a colander and cooked them for dinner.
"Those mushrooms, they were looking really beautiful, large ones, and pure white," Wafa’s father, Musarat Ullah, said.
But those mushrooms belong to the Amanita group and they are toxic.
“Amanita bisporigera is what I believe she ate, which contains the Amanitin toxin that damages the liver cells," Dr. Danyal Ibrahim, a toxicologist at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, said.
The next the day, Ullah took one of his sick family members to the hospital. Then he started feeling sick and called home to urge his wife and daughter to seek medical treatment.
"My dad called, like ‘Are you guys OK?’ I said, ‘No, mom and I are feeling so bad.' I didn't know what to do," Wafa said.
Wafa drove herself and her mother to the emergency room, where Dr. Ibrahim treated them with activated charcoal.
When he learned that the mushrooms were from the backyard, he became concerned and discovered that Wafa would need extra treatments
"Two family members, their symptoms were early. However, her dad and Wafa, they're symptoms were delayed, so I was very cautious," he said. "This is really an extreme case of vomiting and diarrhea, with dehydration."
Wafa's symptoms started getting worse and Dr. Ibrahim used a cocktail of four different drugs, including Silibinin, an experimental medication that he said was key in stopping liver damage.
“I was able to contact the principal investigator,” Ibrahim said, and they were able to send the medication.
The drug helped stop the toxins from attacking Wafa's liver and kidney, which could have killed her, Ibrahim said.
“We were able to avert her that outcome of liver failure, that ominous outcome, potential dying from it, and I think she will most likely do well,” Ibrahim said.
"We are very thankful to them. God bless them,” Ullah said.
Guloona still has stomach pain and suffered some liver damage, but said she is feeling much better now.
“Doctor Ibrahim has given me so much hope,” she said.
She should be able to start eating solid foods tomorrow and return home with her family on Thursday.
"The people here at Saint Francis Hospital really took care of us. They took care of us so well," Ullah said.