KINGMAN - A local family believes a pair of young cousins were sickened by a poisonous weed that can be found growing all over Kingman.
Cody Rogers, 8, and his 6-year-old cousin were playing in a relative's backyard July 2. When the kids' grandmother went to pick up Cody and take him back to his house that afternoon, Cody fell asleep in the car.
His mom, Stephenie Polk, said when he got home, she found that her son's heart was racing and said he was completely non-responsive.
"He wouldn't wake up for anything," she said. "We were very scared."
The girl was also
exhibiting troubling symptoms, including vomiting and experiencing mild hallucinations.
The family took both children to the emergency room around 2 p.m., where doctors were unable to tell them what was wrong with the children. Blood and urine tests showed no abnormalities.
"They really had no answers," Polk said.
The children's symptoms began to subside later that evening and both were released from the hospital around 10 p.m.
Three days later, Polk and her son were having breakfast in Las Vegas when a friend began asking Cody about his experience. While he couldn't remember going to the hospital, he did remember playing in the backyard that afternoon. He said that he and his cousin were playing with green balls off a plant, throwing them in the air and then breaking them apart by stomping on them.
The green balls had apparently come from a jimson weed plant, which was growing in the backyard of the home off of Sierra.
Jimson weed, also referred to as Sacred Datura, grows throughout the Mojave Desert and is commonly found in the high-desert areas of the Southwest, although it can grow in the low desert as well. It is easily identified by its long white, trumpet-shaped flowers.
All parts of the plant, from the seeds to the stems, leaves and flowers, contain poisonous alkaloid compounds, which can cause amnesia, nausea, fever and delirium, respiratory arrest and even death.
Rob Grumbles, agriculture extension agent at the Mohave County Extension Office, said the office receives reports on a regular basis of livestock and pets that become sick after eating the weed. Half a leaf can kill a dog, he said.
When Grumbles lived in Globe, Ariz., he said there were reports of a group of men experimenting with the plant's hallucinogenic properties by eating it. All of the men died, he said. He added that a group of teens in Lake Havasu City were reportedly using the seeds to play Russian Roulette several years ago.
The poison has to be ingested and can't be absorbed through skin, although individuals can become poisoned by touching the plant and then putting their finger in their mouth.
"People need to know that this plant is toxic," Grumbles said. "It really is like playing Russian Roulette."
Polk said her family immediately removed the more than 20 jimson weed plants from the backyard where the kids were playing. They used thick gardening gloves during removal.
"We've taught (Cody) about snakes, spiders, pills and drugs," she said, "but who would think to tell them to watch out for this?
"It makes you realize you're kids aren't safe playing in their own backyard."