Brome mother shares son’s scary experience with toxic plant

By Michael Boriero - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Jackie McGovern was harvesting vegetables in her green house in Brome Wednesday when her son, Hunter, screamed out in pain from across the room.
“When I looked at my son on the other side of the green house, he was flailing and rubbing his face as if he had been attacked by wasps,” McGovern said. “It’s the only way that I could explain this frantic behaviour.”
She immediately sprang into action, noticing Hunter was clutching at his left eye. She grabbed her four-year-old son and poured water over his face using a hose. The water only acted as a small bandaid, however, as he continued to experience severe pain.
“We did this for about five minutes on and off because he would tell me he was ok and then he would walk away, but the moment he was out of arm’s reach he started screaming again because it hurt and it was burning him,” said McGovern.
She was also taking care of her friends daughter at the time of the incident and tending to her one-year-old daughter, Hennessy. A week earlier, Hunter and his mother discovered a strange weed growing on the elevated flower bed with little green bulbs attached to it.
They spent some time squishing them, she explained, it made her son happy and she figured they were harmless. This time, however, when Hunter squeezed on the bulb it burst in his face, with seeds squirting into his eye.
“It’s just fun to pop things, it’s fun to explore and he was just being a kid and it just turned into this horrific thing that I didn’t know what to do,” McGovern said.
McGovern was emotional during a phone interview with The Record on Thursday, admitting that she didn’t realize how traumatizing the whole situation had been a day prior. For close to an entire day, she didn’t know what was wrong with her son.
While Hunter continued to complain about pain in his eye, McGovern noticed his face was completely red. She said it looked like he was wearing a mask across his eyes. She called her husband, who needed to drive down, for help because they live on a two acre farm.
When they reached the house, she used Visine eye drops, but that only made his face flare up even more. Finally, McGovern turned to a sterile eye wash stored in her medicine cabinet to flush out the irritant.
“I used the whole bottle, I just laid him down on his side and I continued to dump a tablespoon at a time over the side of his face to run out whatever was left in there,” she said.
While Hunter’s reaction to the weed eventually subsided, McGovern said it took nearly an entire day. Her son still went to bed with redness on his face. She was determined to discover the weed that caused the whole ordeal, so she reached out to Facebook.

McGovern posted pictures of her son and the green bulbs on the knowlton.Com Facebook page. Within a few minutes, someone already provided her with a concrete lead. The weed seems to be part of the nightshade family, according to a post, which can be toxic.
Another person mentioned more specifically that the weed could be a toxic plant called Solanum Dulcamara, which is part of the nightshade family. The Record also confirmed with local plant shop, Arbo-Culture, that the weed is likely toxic.
McGovern said Hunter is doing much better a day later, but she wanted to inform the public about a very common and toxic weed. She remembers seeing the same plants growing up on her farm. Parents need to be wary of what their kids play with, she warned.
“We were popping them last week together and I didn’t know any better,” said McGovern. “This is why I wanted other parents to know; we thought this was fun.”

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