Kerala nurse’s UK trip ends in tragedy from oleander flower bite

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Soorya Surendran (left) and oleander flowers

KERALA, India, May 7: The hopes and aspirations of a 24-year-old woman and her family were shattered following a tragic incident involving the consumption of oleander (arali) flower and leaf juice in Pallippad near Haripad. Soorya Surendran, daughter of Surendran from Kondurethu House, Neendoor, Pallippad, collapsed at Nedumbassery airport while en route to the UK for a nursing job last Sunday.

Following her collapse, Soorya was rushed to a private hospital in Angamaly and later transferred to a medical college hospital in Parumala near Tiruvalla, where she succumbed to the ordeal last Monday. Haripad station house officer K Abhilashkumar reported that a postmortem examination was conducted at Alappuzha Medical College Hospital, revealing the cause of death as the ingestion of oleander flower and leaf.

According to Abhilashkumar, Soorya had inadvertently consumed a few drops of oleander juice while walking and talking on the phone in her neighborhood. Despite spitting out the leaf and flower immediately, the toxic content had entered her system. The postmortem indicated the presence of poisonous substances in her blood, although traces of the flower or leaf were not found in her stomach contents.

Soorya, who had excelled academically, had secured admission to a nursing job in the UK—a dream cherished by her family. However, the unforeseen tragedy has left her loved ones devastated.

Dr. Benil Kottakkal, an expert on oleander toxicity, explained that the alkaloids present in the flower, particularly in the latex within the stalk, are cardiac glycosides that directly affect the heart. While the toxicity levels may vary among oleander plants, especially newer varieties designed to yield more flowers, the exact extent remains to be scientifically quantified.

Joseph Job, Vice-Principal and Associate Professor at the Department of Botany, SB College Changanassery, affirmed that the toxicity of oleander depends on factors such as the ingested part of the plant, the individual’s age, and health condition. He emphasized that all plants within the Apocynaceae family, including oleander, contain cardiac stimulatory alkaloids.

The untimely demise of Soorya serves as a poignant reminder of the dangers associated with ingesting certain plants, urging for greater awareness and caution in handling such vegetation.

This news has been read 1225 times!

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