Carson Valley man injured by toxic plant

After Robert McPherson weeded his back yard in the Gardnerville Ranchos, he ended up in the emergency room when a toxic plant infected his body.

"I was pruning the dead leaves off," McPherson said. "I wasn't wearing gloves."

A succulent with a white, milky, sticky sap was the culprit.

"I was covered by it," McPherson said.

He left the garden to take a brief nap. When he woke, he rubbed his eyes.

"Immediately, my eyes were on fire," he said. The sap wouldn't wash off with soap and water. By the time he arrived at the local veterans' clinic, his legs were numb with the poison. His arms and legs were blotchy and red with a rash.

Clinic staff put him in a wheelchair to rinse his eyes then transferred him to the Minden Medical Center's Urgent Care facility.

"It was so painful they had to give me Demerol," he said. "The pain was so intense. It was just like my eyes were on fire.

"The only relief was an ice-cold cloth, but it had to be changed every 10 seconds."

McPherson followed up with a visit to an area optometrist.

"Even when I got in there, my eyes were so light sensitive, I couldn't see, McPherson said. "The doctor said I burned my eyes really bad."

He was treated with steroids, pain medication and antibacterial lotion, all of which gave him a little relief, he said.

He took the plant to the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office in Gardnerville.

It was identified as a spurge called euphorbia, one of more than 100 related plant varieties.

After calling the national Poison Control Center, McPherson found he had received the best possible treatment for exposure to the succulent.

"I didn't know if I was going to lose my sight, or what," he said. "I saw the eye doctor again, and he said things are progressing well. It's going to take a while for it to get out of my system."

McPherson said the incident was the most painful in his recent memory.

"I was attacked by monkeys in Thailand and had to have rabies shots," McPherson said. "I had to have my small finger amputated. But this was worse.

"If I can prevent anybody from going through this, I will. I can't imagine a child having to feel this pain."

Regina Purcell may be reached at or (775) 782-5121, ext. 211.


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