This section is from the book "Our Edible Toadstools and Mushrooms and How to Distinguish Them", by W. Hamilton Gibson. Also available from Amazon: Our Edible Toadstools And Mushrooms And How To Distinguish Them.
Attracted by their appearance, and supposing them to be edible, they gathered a large quantity, with the anticipation of having a delicious dish for their Sunday evening meal.
Various other kinds were growing in the same locality, but this particular variety impressed them as being the most inviting. A correct specimen of the fungus they had collected having been sent you, I will leave its botanical description to your pen.
At about nine o'clock, five hours after gathering them, Mrs. F. cooked three pints of the toadstools, stewing them in milk, and seasoning with butter, pepper, and salt.
They had dinner at a very early hour on this day, and by the time they had supper all felt exceedingly hungry, in consequence of which they ate quite heartily. Mrs. F. and her brother vied with each other as to the quantity they could eat. In addition to this dish, bread and butter and coffee were served.
Soon after supper the family retired. None experienced the least discomfort until towards daybreak, when considerable distress in the abdominal organs and cerebral disturbance manifested themselves. Prominent among the initial symptoms were foul breath, coated tongue, pain in the stomach, nausea, and a peculiar sickening sensation in the epigastrium. These symptoms gradually increased in severity, and in twelve hours after the ingestion of the poison, when I made my first visit, the condition of the victims involved great danger. Intense vomiting was present in four, while in Mrs. R.'s case a violent retching seemed to persist.
Gastro-intestinal irritation, followed by a relaxed condition of the bowels, showed itself in about thirty hours after the onset of the more active symptoms. With the appearance of this trouble an insufferable tenesmus developed, producing paroxysms of severe agony. This was particularly true in the case of Mrs. R., whose suffering was so great that it became a formidable symptom to combat. Upon the subsidence of the more severe symptoms, the patients fell into a state of extreme prostration, accompanied by stupor and cold extremities. In the mother, son, and daughter this was profoundly marked. They were completely indifferent to persons and things around them, as well as to their own suffering.
As the symptoms increased in violence, Thos. R. advanced into a state of coma, and Mrs. F. into coma vigil, and remained so for about twelve hours prior to death. The face had a shrunken and wrinkled appearance, the eyes were sunken, the skin was dusky, and the surface of the body was dry and cold to the touch. The pulse, a number of hours before death, was imperceptible at the wrist, and the heart-sounds were scarcely perceived by auscultation.
The pulse in all cases was notably affected, ranging from 120 to 140 per minute. In character it was soft and compressible; intermittent at intervals.
There was a distinct rise of temperature; the thermometer in the axilla registered as much as 140o F.
A mild form of delirium was an occasional event. In the case of Mrs. F. it formed an important element.
Respecting the special senses, it is well to mention that sight was peculiarly affected. Notwithstanding the fact that the pupils responded kindly to the action of the light, an unpleasant sensation of blindness frequently appeared, and continued for a few minutes.
In spite of all that was done to counteract its ravages, the effects of the poison were so extremely deadly that a fatal issue was the result in two cases. Thomas R. died in fifty-six and Mrs. F. in sixty-three hours after the ingestion of the toadstools.
Treatment. - The treatment instituted was mainly symptomatic. Fearing that undigested particles of toadstools might still be lying in the gastro-intestinal tract, to Mrs. R., who had not freely vomited, an emetic was administered, and to the rest a mild purge.
An intense thirst and a burning sensation being present in the mouth, throat, and stomach, small pieces of cracked ice were freely used with a view to allaying it.
For the gastro-intestinal irritation I prescribed with satisfactory results the following: