Fifty Shades of Grey star Jamie Dornan was rushed to the hospital with heart attack symptoms after a run-in with toxic caterpillars during a golf trip to Portugal.
“It turns out that there are caterpillars on golf courses in the south of Portugal that have been killing people’s dogs and giving men in their 40s heart attacks,” Jamie’s friend Gordon Smart, who was with the actor on the March 2023 trip, explained during the January 12 episode of BBC’s “The Good, the Bad and the Unexpected” podcast.
The Scottish broadcaster, 43, said the incident began when he began to experience “tingling” in his left hand and arm after a night out with Jamie, 41, and two other friends, and immediately recognized his symptoms as “the sign of the start of a heart attack.” He also reported having a heart rate of 210 BPM, well over the normal range of 60 to 100 BPM.
“Now, I’m a fairly healthy guy but once you start thinking you’re having a heart attack, you’re pretty sure that you’re convincing yourself that you are having one,” Gordon said.
After passing out in an Uber on his way to the emergency room, Gordon remembered waking up in a hospital bed, where he quickly noticed another friend on the trip being wheeled by with similar symptoms.
Gordon said that while he was discharged from the hospital shortly after, Jamie’s symptoms worsened and he, too, was rushed to the emergency room for treatment. “Gordon, about 20 minutes after you left, my left arm went numb, my left leg went numb, my right leg went numb. And I found myself in the back of an ambulance,'” he recalled Jamie telling him.
Though Gordon and his friends recovered from the mysterious incident with no lasting effects, he explained that there was an interesting twist in the saga about a week later.
Gordon said that the doctor — presumably one who treated the friends for their symptoms — called him shortly after they returned home from their trip and asked if the group had been in contact with caterpillars during their golf outings.
Brushing up against a native species of pine processionary moth caterpillars, the physician reportedly explained, can result in symptoms in humans similar to the ones they presented with.
Forest Research notes that the insects can pose a “hazard to human and animal health,” and that touching the caterpillars can cause symptoms ranging from minor skin and eye irritation to more serious allergic reactions.
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According to one February 2016 report in The Portugal News, a local gardener suffered four heart attacks due to anaphylactic shock after coming in contact with the caterpillars’ poisonous hairs. The man, according to the outlet, underwent a triple bypass surgery as a result of his body’s deadly response to the insects.
“It turns out we brushed up against processionary caterpillars and had been very lucky to come out of that one alive,” Gordon concluded his unusual tale.
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