Doctors at Shaare Zedek Medical Center saved the life of a 73-year-old man from Jerusalem who suffered a heart attack after drinking a seemingly poisoned oleander tea he had prepared himself.
The man arrived about two weeks ago after his wife suspected he was having a stroke following some confusion he was showing. As soon as he arrived, he was given initial tests and sent for a CT and MRI, but he had a cardiac arrest moments before the MRI.
Director of ER, Dr. Phillip Levin: "We immediately began a resuscitation procedure and thankfully his pulse and blood pressure returned to normal and he regained full consciousness pretty quickly." The man's pulse remained slow and he needed a pacemaker. After the tests, it was decided, with the Director of the Emergency Cardiac Department, Dr. Elad Asher, to give the man a cardiac catheterization.
"Due to the combination of confusion, nausea and a slow pulse the man had before his arrival at the hospital, we thought about poisoning," explains Dr. Levin. "We interrogated his family about whether he had been using new drugs or had had a recent dietary change, and very quickly we understood that he had drunk a new tea he had made himself from leaves he had picked in the street. Oleander poisoning."
After recovery and being disconnected from the respiratory machine, the man identified the leaves as oleander leaves. "I suffer from diabetes and was looking for stuff to lower my sugar. Near my house I found a plant that looked like verbena so I picked a few leaves, ground them up at home and prepared some tea. I didn't think it was something that could kill me!"
His wife told us that she didn't know he'd gathered the leaves and prepared tea. "In the morning I saw he wasn't feeling well and I thought it was just a virus, but when he started to speak in a muddled way, I knew something serious had happened and I rushed him to Shaare Zedek."
Dr. Asher Elad, Director of the Cardiac Emergency Unit: "The oleander plant contains a substance very similar to one of the common heart drugs but is much more poisonous. The poison directly impacts the heart muscle. It's relatively rare to see a case like this, so it's even more dangerous because it limits our ability to identify plant poisoning as the cause. Thankfully, the man came here fast and on time so we were able to save his life. This case must serve as a warning to us all of the dangers inherent in the oleander plant and to understand that fast identification and rapid arrival at hospital can save lives."