Wednesday, August 03, 2011

"I wanted to die It was so grim."

Mirth is not to be expected in a man who almost killed himself and his family by eating poisonous mushrooms, but Nicholas Evans, newly restored after being given his daughter’s kidney in a life-saving transplant, contemplates the effect on his private parts with some amusement, "like an exhibit in a village vegetable show, like prize-winning beetroot with this strange purple cucumber lying on top."

Accidents do not happen in a ghastlier shape than this. Evans is a knowledgeable countryman who’d enjoyed mushroom expeditions since he was a boy. He’d been told just the place to find ceps and chanterelles and came back with a basketful of what he thought were Boletus edulis, or ceps. He was greeted like a returning hero. “Fantastic!” they said. No one noticed they were the deadly webcap, Cortinarius speciosissimus, a mushroom that damages the liver, kidneys and spinal cord. No one consulted the fungi guidebook in the kitchen.

The horror of their situation when they realised they were poisoned caused no panic. “It felt as though you might wake up from it, actually. You couldn’t believe what was taking place inside you.”

Within two days they were all critically ill and remained ill for months.

Three years on, Alastair and Charlotte are still on dialysis, waiting for kidney transplants. Louisa was not so badly affected. In probably the most highly charged transaction of his life, Evans received a kidney from his only daughter, Lauren, last month because his heart was under strain from five hours of dialysis three times a week.

“It was just stupid, stupid,” he says of the poisoning. “Two people deciding that the other knew what he or she was doing, transferring all responsibility.

The scope for guilt, blame and mutual recrimination is enormous.

It has changed him, too. “I’ve always been somebody who worried about things I haven’t done right and about the future. Perhaps because of the looming mortality, I am much more able to live in the moment now. This spring was so beautiful in our part of the country. Waves of snowdrops, then primroses, bluebells, garlic. It was almost unbearably intense and I know that’s wrapped up with feelings about the preciousness of life.”

Nicholas Evans: 'I wanted to die. It was so grim’ - Telegraph


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