Amherst mother, son recovering from mushroom poisoning

A mother and her son from Amherst are recovering from a dinner that turned poisonous.
Published: Oct. 20, 2022 at 5:54 PM EDT
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WORCESTER, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - A mother and her son from Amherst are recovering from a dinner that turned poisonous. Kam Chen and her son, Kai, spoke out on Thursday about their very scary experience. Kam had prepared mushrooms she had picked from her friend’s yard in Amherst earlier this month. It turns out that she had mistaken the death white cap mushroom for the brown cap mushroom, which she grew up eating in her home country of Mylasia.

While the mushrooms looked ordinary to Kam, they were actually extremely poisonous. A few hours after dinner, Kam and Kai started getting very sick.

“It didn’t feel like we were in imminent danger. It felt like regular food poison, if you’ve ever had it,” Kam Chen said.

Kai said his mother checked for toxins by preparing the mushrooms with ginger. The traditional practice turns poisonous mushrooms black, but since this particular mushroom does not respond to heat, they did not react to this test.

They were both rushed to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, but were soon transferred to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where Kam would eventually undergo a liver transplant.

“The care that we were able to provide was really a collaborative effort from dozens and dozens of health care specialists,” said Dr. Stephanie Carreiro, who cared for Kam and Kai and is a medical toxicologist. Carreiro said the death white cap mushrooms are fairly common in Massachusetts and kill about 10 to 20 percent of people who eat them. She said the cap of the mushroom contains enough toxins to kill two people.

Kai said he is an only child and takes care of both of his parents. He described what it has been like watching his mother being sick.

“For me, watching them and what I went through doesn’t really matter for me. Everything is about my mom and how she’s doing. Seeing her in the condition, she was in was something I had never experienced before…This was truly the worst I had ever seen and been through emotionally and mentally as well,” Kai Chen noted.

Kai said he is feeling much better, despite some occasional nausea. His doctors told us he will not face any long-term side effects from this illness.

As for his mother, Kam is still recovering at the Whittier Rehab Center.